It’s that time of year again. Classes are winding down, procrastination is finally catching up to us, and we begin saying our goodbyes. For some of us, we say goodbye to friends that we expect to see again next year. Whether they are going back home, vacationing, or taking an internship out of state, there is at least some certainty that we will get to see each other again on move-in weekend in the fall. Even if they are studying abroad in the fall, we still can expect to see each other again in January. There exists a founded hope that we will see each other again.
For some of our other friends, such a hope is not so certain. Many of us will be saying goodbye to friends who we can’t expect to see again next year, whose futures might be lie beyond Boston College, New England, and even the United States. These graduates might have been people who first helped us learn how to navigate B.C., people who checked in on us when we were down, people who wanted to truly know us and who asked us the questions that helped us truly know ourselves. These people to whom we bid farewell were integral to our experience of BC and are what make saying goodbye so difficult.
I find it coincidental that Pentecost falls on the day before graduation this year. On Pentecost, we celebrate the coming down of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles after a period of hiding. The Holy Spirit gave them the ability to proclaim the “mighty acts of God” (Acts 2:11). Additionally, on the feast of Pentecost, we hear from the Gospel about Jesus’ appearance to the disciples in hiding. He tells them “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). Pentecost is not simply a feast about receiving the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but of being sent out to use those gifts in the world.
It is not difficult to imagine that the first disciples might have been afraid to leave and see each other leave without any certainty that they would see each other again on earth. Despite this fear, the disciples still went out to share the good news of Jesus Christ, trusting in the power of the gifts God had given them. While our friends who are moving beyond BC might not have the same confidence and certainty that the first disciples did, they can trust that the gifts they have received in their time here will not fail them.
So what does that mean for the rest of us left behind? Are we simply called to trust that our friendships with those leaving will be as strong as they are without their presence? Well, yes.
Our understanding of trust needs some nuance though. Trust is not simply some passive emotion that we tap into to make us feel as though our long-distance friendships are fine without our effort. Rather, trust calls us into action, spurning us to continue to cultivate the friendships which have shaped us and our time at BC.
That is one of the beauties of social media. When we use to it engage with our friends and their lives, we reap the benefits of friendship in spite of distance. Alternatively, when we use it to simply view our friends’ lives, we fool ourselves into thinking that we are actually cultivating a friendship.
Saying goodbye is hard, especially when we have to say goodbye to friends without any certainty that we will see each other soon. What we are left with is trust; a trust that calls us to be active partners in friendship. This trust can give us the same certainty and confidence that the first disciples had. Trust is what can make saying goodbye easier, even if only just a bit.
"Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter: whoever finds one has found a treasure. Faithful friends are beyond price; no amount can balance their worth. Faithful friends are life-saving medicine; and those who fear the Lord will find them” (Sirach 6:14-16).