It took a man dying to wake me up… I wasn’t prepared. Kinda like that whole virgins with the oil parable, or the thief, or keeping watch. God seems to run fire alarm drills.
I have lived life using checklists, it’s what I do. A check here, a check there and my assignment is complete. It’s not that the world operates this way, but it’s that I operate this way, and I am sure many of you do to. We are conditioned to “make the best out of life” and “get things done” and “be productive.” For us type A’ers, it’s a way of life and provides us not only with comfort and stability, but with a sense of purpose. It’s also a form of control. Because surrendering, surrendering is just the ultimate out of control thing to do.
And this past Sunday was no different. Serve at mass check. Attend mass check. Deliver communion to the homebound gentleman I’ve been assigned to visit, no, no not check. It was 11:30 my usual visitation time. Selfishly, I was tired. I had been up at my usual 5 am for an hour alone with the Lord, served at my first Sunday of the month mass as a Eucharistic minister, sped across town to make it to the 9:30 mass, arrived back in time to grab the host, my script, and a reading for the visit. I was tired, wanted to turn back and go to bed, wanted to spend my Sunday under the covers.
So I parked and gathered my things. Called as I usually do up to the apartment to the wife who I suspect has dimensia. Yes it’s me, Melissa, remember me? I am here with your communion. No door buzz. Ring again.
Hi yes it’s me again, door didn’t open, I grew inpatient.
My normal walk of three flights of stairs due to my fear of elevators. This time when I walked down the darkest hall I have ever seen in my life, the door was not opened as it usually was for me. Knocked and the door was opened. A nurse was sitting at the table.
And you are?
Melissa, from the church. I am here to distribute communion.
Oh you didn’t hear? He died at 9 am.
I can’t tell you much about what happened after that except that I started to cry, and couldn’t stop. The nurse who I presume was from Hospice consoled me. She seemed surprised when I told her I was a stranger and not family, probably because I was crying so hard. Maybe it was the lack of emotion she sees from people everyday, maybe it was how hard I was crying, but she clearly saw that I was moved in a way that words could not substitute for.
So I sat there for awhile until she nudged me to go in. He was still in there… so was his wife and some family. She was disoriented, but I hugged her and told her I had communion with me, specifically two hosts. We walked outside and I asked her in front of the Hospice nurse if there was anyone else that would like to receive communion.
No, nobody else.
Without missing a beat the Hospice nurse piped up like I had brought the most precious of jewels, “Me! I would like to take communion!”
So I said a short prayer. We bowed our heads, and I fed them the Lord’s body.
I walked downstairs and couldn’t breathe. I had a million thoughts running through my head. Ministry suddenly was not a checklist, or a weekend retreat or a first and third Sunday. Ministry was life, and death.
I realized there were no sign ups for these kinds of things. No schedules or the like. No first and third Sundays. No, nothing like that at all.
The last thing the gentleman had said to me and the only time he talked was last last Sunday. He smiled at me as his wife apologized for the coffee he had just spilled all over himself. I looked at him and told him, I am so glad to be here and you know, I spill things all the time too, you’re not the only one. I got a smile out of him and he mustered up everything he could to respond to me.
You know, I love the mass on tv. It’s so beautiful.
He talked about it like he was talking about a person. Like the most beautiful person he had ever seen. Like Jesus.
And now he was dead…
Knock and the door will be opened to you invites you into that uncomfortable space. It is not about an asking so much as it is about a deeper, more intimate spiritual level inside your soul. I didn’t even know the gentleman’s name since the request for a home visit had come in through his wife, but for some reason that was never important to me…
Ministry can’t and won’t be on a schedule for very long. We can try and choose who we serve, but in the end it’s not really up to us. We can sign up, show up, be the very best Christians we can be, but in the end, none of that is ministry. It doesn’t take knowing a name to learn what the kingdom of God is.
I don’t plan on having those kinds of checklists anymore. I’m going to quit a lot more “ministries,” and just spend some time with Jesus. I am going to be Mary. I am going to have the better part.
There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.