Lord Jesus, I’ll praise you as long as I
May all of my joy be a faithful reflection of you.
Truly I tell you, today
you will be with me in Paradise.
The din of
Golgotha was confusion enough. Only on prosaic Easter cards is
the hill top so thinly populated by crosses. The sentenced were
there, of course, as were the men that were required to carry
out the sentences – the Centuries who had to keep order, such as
it was. Those attracted by public executions ventured out, as
they have in every generation. And then there were others whose
presence was demanded by their insistence that the sentence was
carried out. Jesus’ accusers would have been numbered among
Least of all
there would have been disciples. Peter had been accused as
being an associate of the Nazarene. Worse, he was suspected as
being a Galilean. Fear made them cautious.
would have found the evangelists by a referential route. And
what was reported as having been said would have been reported
with a grain of salt and probably not much more. Certainly
comprehension would have been scarce. And the greater our
distance from the Place of the Skull, the greater our claim that
these attributed words are true.
confident that Jesus conveyed words of assurance to a man
crucified near by. From what we know the man nearby was close
to death, perhaps closer to death than he was to Jesus. And all
the men were going to die.
“You will be
with me in Paradise,” Jesus told him. Not as some unmerited
reward for his crimes. Neither does Jesus absolve him as he did
so many times before in the Gospels where forgiveness is never
implied. In this instance Jesus’ voice born on the wind is
carried to another’s ear and in the darkened afternoon hope is
expressed… not of the geography of heaven but of the torment of
the moment: “You will be with me … I will be with
you.” You are not alone. As abandoned as you may feel from
family, friends and colleagues, I am with you and you are not
decades ago I was called to the Regional Hospital in Saint John
to the bedside of a friend and former parishioner who had asked
for me. John had been 57 when he came to me for catechesis. He
had undertaken his spiritual formation as seriously as he had
his career as a policeman and Staff Sergeant. John had an
uncomplicated faith and recognized the need to read the
Scriptures and attend the Eucharist. Shortly after his
Confirmation I was stopped by his wife in a local nursing home
where she was on staff. She asked what I had done to her dear
John. When he is through with his soup and sandwich at lunch he
goes into the living room and reads his Bible, she told me. She
was not complaining, she went on to add. It’s just that John
had changed. He had been transformed. And the change had been
for the better.
predeceased him by several years and he had no family except for
a sister. His sister had called me and asked me to visit John.
As I entered
his room, John asked if I remembered to bring the Oils. I
assured him that I had. His voice was harsh and I learned that
he had oesophageal cancer. I encouraged him not to speak, but
that we would have Communion and that I would anoint him with
the Oil I brought with me. And that I would sit and visit. He
made a suitable gruff response and went and sat on the side of
I opened my
Communion Box and set out the Cross and Candles and the Chalice
and Paten. I placed the Oil Stock next to the Chalice. The
prayers we would say together he mimed with his lips, his mouth
dry and throat raw. I placed a portion of a host on the
Communion Spoon having first dipped the Spoon in the Cup. He
took the Sacrament reverently and said something appropriate
like, “Thank you Lord” as I communicated myself.
moistened my thumb in the cotton wad in the Oil Stock and
touched his forehead. As I outlined the Cross that had been
placed there years before by Canon Ed Lane I gave voice to a
prayer of blessing… and healing.
As I put the
utensils back in the Box John raised his legs and positioned
himself in bed. He sat, a pillow supporting his head.
I took a
seat, beside his bed. John’s arms lay beside him and he rested
as I placed my left hand on top of his. While John sat there
serene and at the threshold of death I am sure Jesus’ words
sounded in that room… “Today you will be with me …
I will be with you.”
later it was my privilege to preside at John’s requiem mass.
I’ll praise you as long as I journey.
May all of my
joy be a faithful reflection of you.
Woman, here is your son! ...
Here is your mother!