But the holy ones of the Most High shall receive the kingship,
to possess it forever and ever."
Amid Daniel's terror upon seeing the four beasts, he received that reassuring word. Many centuries later we still experience fright as we face the future. With Daniel, we realize our frailty within our coverings of flesh.
Last week, I was asked to stay with a family as they watched their father/grandfather die. It was, as often happens in the hospital, a very quiet event. The Veteran had directed, if there was no chance of his recovery, he should be allowed to die peacefully and without pain.
We were asked to leave the room for a few minutes as his respirator was removed and the feeding tube was taken from his throat. He had been medicated so that, despite his failing lungs, he could not feel oxygen deprivation even from the depths of his unconsciousness.
Returning to the room, we found the old man breathing softly. For a little while his breath came rapidly, but it soon slowed. Eventually he paused for long moments between breaths, as if he were forgetting to breathe, and then remembering again to take a breath. Finally long moments passed and it was clear he had finished breathing.
As he died I read our Catholic prayer, "The Commendation of the Dying." It is a simple prayer, consisting of readings from the scripture, a litany of the saints, and final commendation:
Go forth, Christian soul, from this worldWe've come to the last day of our liturgical year. We have considered the Last Things: Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. We believe that God is merciful. He knows our sins and he knows our sorrow for sin. We live in a sinful world and each of us has compromised in various ways with that reality, despite our faith and hope and love.
in the name of God the almighty Father, who created you, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who suffered for you, in the name of the Holy Spirit, who was poured out upon you. Go forth, faithful Christian!May you live in peace this day,
may your home be with God in Zion,
with Mary, the virgin Mother of God,
with Joseph, and all the angels and saints. . . .
May you return to your Creator
who formed you from the dust of the earth.
May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints
come to meet you as you go forth from this life. . . .
May you see your Redeemer face to face.
Our faith teaches confidence as we look forward to that Great Day when the Lord will call each us us by name from the dust of the earth. We have become familiar with his voice and will surely know it when he calls us, even as a baby knows its mother's voice before it's born.
The Veteran was surrounded by friends, family and myself, representing the whole Church. It doesn't get any better than that.