Emma Magnuson ’92 M.A.

When my father passed away a few years ago, things changed in a way I didn’t expect. There was a sense of absence that I suppose I anticipated as a part of my grieving process but couldn’t quite comprehend until it washed over me in the full strangeness of its reality. But what I really didn’t expect was this: I found that I was a different person in the world now that my father was no longer in it. His passing was not just a loss as a matter of something being subtracted from my life, it was a total transformation of my life, and me with it.

I think this experience is the closest that I can relate to this passage from Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse” in the Gospel of John. He is preparing his disciples for his death but trying to comfort them and remind them of his most important teachings at the same time. Most of all, he is trying to prepare them for the complete transformation of their lives that is about to happen.

I imagine that his disciples were struggling with some of the same feelings I just described. In this reading, Jesus reassures us, “I will not leave you orphaned.” I think this line is a great comfort to all of us who have lost parents. Jesus and God the Father not only stand in the spiritual place of our deceased loved ones, but they also assure us of a connection to them in the life that is to come.

Today, members of the Class of 2020 are experiencing a “Farewell Discourse” of their own. As their degrees are conferred on them and they graduate from Notre Dame through online ceremonies, their absence from our physical campus is perhaps the most memorable aspect of this commencement. I pray that the members of this class–even in the pain of this absence–will remember that nothing can separate us when we are united in the love of Christ. I pray that they realize how Notre Dame has transformed them and recognize how their lives will always be different because of the time they spent there. Most all, I pray that they have the courage to live out Jesus’ words in today’s gospel: “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me.”