“When Paul had finished speaking he knelt down and prayed with them all. They were all weeping loudly as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him, for they were deeply distressed that he had said that they would never see his face again. Then they escorted him to the ship.”
As the gospel spread to all nations, we seldom see scenes in the scriptures like Paul’s farewell to the presbyters at Ephesus, described in our reading for today, but there must have been others like it. Peter biding farewell to his family at Capernaum; James and John parting from the mother who wanted so much for them; others who left the places and people they knew for the sake of the gospel. Goodbyes are hard, even when they happen for noble purposes.
There’s a homelessness in every human life. The Carmelite poet, Jessica Powers describes it so well in one of her poems:
“It is the homelessness of the soul in the body sown
it is the loneliness of mystery;
of seeing oneself a leaf, inexplicable and unknown
cast from an unimaginable tree;
of knowing one’s life to be a brief wind blown
down a fissure of time in the rock of eternity.”
This is the homelessness that touches us all, even as we believe.
The elders of Ephesus would miss Paul who had been with them for three years and become part of their life, and he would miss them. The disciples of Jesus at the Last Supper must have been touched as he told them he was going away. They had to feel loss.
Only the promise of a spiritual union and a homecoming tempered their sense of loss. Only the promise of reunion of another day.