The phone rang and caught me off guard. In a startle I answered, “Hello!” “Oh good morning Fr. Robin. It’s Mary here.” “Oh hello Mary.” My mind racing and searching to figure out who “Mary” was. As a brand new deacon in the church and still very new to my first parish, I was still trying to put names to faces and also determine who were actual parishioners versus siblings and extended family who may have been mentioned in passing, but never actually come to church. “My mom, Gladys, is in the hospital. We think that there is not much time left, would you be able to go and give her Last Rites.” This was my first phone call from a parishioner and family member. This too was the first request I had received to go and administer Last Rites.
In my eagerness and over zealousness to impress and be prepared I brought the whole nine yards and then some. I hurried down the hospital corridor with my arms laden with communion vessels, a stole, Bible, both versions of the prayer book, cause you never know . . . My nifty home communion set would not do the job I determined, it must be the communion vessels that we use every Sunday for Mass. Oh yes, and of course, lest I forget, dangling form one available finger, holy oil for unction. After all this is Last Rites. With all this holy loot you could have heard me coming for three blocks!
There was Gladys sitting outside her room. Slightly out of breath I really didn’t have to introduce myself. “Ahh there you are” she said before I could say a word. With her face gleaming and a smile she continued, “I am ready.”
There are moments in our lives that we cannot describe or anticipate where we know, we just know, that we are in the presence of The Holy and words simply fail to capture the full extent of what is happening. My visit with Gladys was one such visit. “I am ready.” I realized as I stood in front of her, arms laden, that there was absolutely nothing I could say or needed to say to her. She had a love of God that radiated from her with every fibre of her being.
“Oh good” I replied and continued to set my things down, knowing that everything I had brought, really didn’t matter any more. I was on Holy Ground where we were in the presence of the Divine and all I had to do, needed to do, was stop and listen. Just stop and listen.
Gladys died within the week, peaceful and content. Just as she had been with me during our visit. Just as she had been for most of her life; content with no regrets, knowing that she was loved by God and would be soon, very soon, be seeing her Creator and Redeemer face to face.
Peter, James and John are on the mountain top with Jesus. They are on retreat away from the crowd praying together. Just then Jesus changes before before them. His face changes and his clothes become a dazzling white. The three disciples see a vision of Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah having a conversation. After this it is Peter who says, “Master it is good for us to be here.” Then a cloud forms and the Divine speaks to gathered company, “This is my son, my Chosen, listen to him!”
It is very good, in fact it is indescribable to be on Holy Ground where you know, you just know, that the Divine is present with you. There are no words for such moments because in some way, God is already there before you ever showed up. It doesn’t matter what you bring or what prayer book you decide to use, any of the stuff just fine and none of them really matter. You are on Holy Ground where God is fully present and alive talking to you, teaching you and letting you know, “its okay, I got this.” In such moments, the only response we can make, that we need to make is to stop and listen. Listen intently with an open heart to the voice of the Divine to say, “this is my son, my daughter, my Chosen, listen to them.”
We move through our days and weeks with hectic schedules, appointments to make, standards and expectations to meet. We walk down the road with ear phones in our ears, stare out the bus window never making eye contact, especially eye contact, as we race to the next before the present is fully complete. We live our lives all to often with one foot in the past and the other in the upcoming scheduled event, never, or hardly ever in the present. But some times we need to be in the present, we need to stop in the midst of whatever is preoccupying our time, with whatever is in our hands, to just stop and listen to the voice of the Divine in the present.
When we do that, when we dare to do that, we are able to hear God speak to us and say, “its okay, I got this!”