Psalms 105:1-22 * 105:23-45; Exodus 24:1-18; Colossians 2:8-23; Matthew 4:12-17
I only met Bill and Joan once, after a service at St. Thomas' while I was still seminarian there. We barely had a conversation, nothing much beyond the initial pleasantries people give to each other when they share a mutual friend. Bill was (and still is to some extent) a primary mentor to our mutual friend and I feel like I know him and Joan quite well because of the stories shared with me by our mutual friend.
Bill is a retired priest who has been suffering from cancer for a number of years. The disease has returned with a vengeance and I learned early this morning that he is now under hospice care with (at the most) a few weeks to live. It is a very sad thing to watch someone slowly lose their life to a painful and debilitating disease.
Today is the anniversary of my father's death. He died on April 11, 1980: 27 years ago. That is a long time ago, but for me that day is one of those days that is seared into my memory: one I can recall with absolute clarity, as if the events happened yesterday. And on this anniversary of my Dad's passing, and on a day of the receipt of news of a dear friend's mentor/priest being on death's door, we are given Matthew's passing of the torch from John the Baptist to Jesus, where Jesus, in the land of the Gentiles, is proclaiming "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." Jesus being that presence, that kingdom.
Repent is one of those really charged words in our lexicon. In the Greek it means turn and return: turn away from what one is doing and return to God, or perhaps turn toward God and return to God. Both of these provide a more optimistic understanding of the word repent then is commonly associated with it. Both Bill and my Dad led lives full of God's grace. My Dad is in a better place now, after having suffered a horrible demise. Bill is close now to that everlasting and loving embrace that God provides to those who come home. Although very difficult for those who remain behind, who remain behind for a while only, there is a beauty to the knowledge that this separation is not forever: that we are all promised a better place.
Pray for Bill and Joan, as Bill moves on to that next place.
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer