Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The privilege of priesthood

I got a call last night that I was needed at the hospital ER. A woman was close to death. She and her family needed a priest. So, without hesitation, I went, praying for as I drove to the hospital. In the patient's room, her family was gathered around her bed, while nurses and other medical personnel tended to her. The woman's sister was stroking her arm and head and whispering comforting words to her, urging her to let go "and go toward the light." Her mother and father were with her, in tears of loving presence. Surely, this woman knew she was surrounded by love. I anointed her for healing. And God answered our prayers in the way that was best for her; he granted her that ultimate healing, which comes in death. The ER doctor, who was kind and gentle, said that she "had passed" and that the time had come to turn off the ventilator and let her go. And so the machine was shut off. Now, this woman is with God--no longer suffering, but alive as never before in our eternal spiritual family, the Communion of Saints. As I said my goodbyes to the family, a nurse came over to me, her arms out to me. And we hugged. She thank you. "Thank you for being here." Nothing like her response has ever happened to me before. It felt good--not just because of the hug, but good because I knew I was where God wanted me and doing what God called me to do, making his love known in a time of profound need. This was a holy moment. I am reminded what a privilege it is to be a priest and to share in times of great joy and great sadness with God's people.

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