Last Wednesday, before the hustle and bustle of the Holy Week ceremonies and liturgies, some of us here at work experienced a chilling reality. One of the guys who has been with the company for many years, and who has been a faithful, responsible and always on-time worker, didn't show up. He didn't call in, he wasn't answering his phone and there seemed to be no signs of his presence at his trailer, which is on the property of our company. After a little while, the director of employees began to be worried, and eventually, the decision was made to break into this employee's trailer home. First, an outside window was removed, then another employee was helped in. The main door to the trailer was unlocked and then three men approached the only room in the house that hadn't been checked. After having to break the door down, sure enough, our employee was found in his bed, cold and still, but not dead. He was unresponsive but clearly gasping for air or at least making some noise that resembled a gasp. Within a few minutes, I called 911 and after what seemed like an eternity (less than 5 minutes), the ambulance and fire truck arrived. Almost without having to go into the trailer, the fire team recognized a distinct smell of some type of gas. As it turned out, the house was full of carbon monoxide, 363 parts per million (an evacuation is often ordered after 35 parts per million.) Needless to say, the situation was serious and within a few minutes of arriving, our employee was rushed to the hospital where he would later be flown to Oklahoma City for more intense treatment. To everyone who had seen him, and even to the emergency response team, this person was either close to death, or the future victim of sever brain damage. Needless to say, we were all shaken up and saddened by this event, but life must go on, and we continued with our day. We spoke in whispers of the fate that must surely await this person and sadly prepared for funerals and difficult moments ahead. My brother saw the helicopter that was used to take this employee to OK City and all sorts of people tried to find out information on him, but more than anything, we all sat in the awkward knowledge that death was close at hand. This was on Wednesday.
On Friday afternoon, after a full week of work and everything else, as I was driving home, I got a phone call. Because of the caller, I was almost certain as to what the call would be about. Our employee was dead. With an ignorant resignation as to what I was about to hear, the voice on the other end was high pitched and surprised: "Guess who's coming back to work on Monday?" Awestruck, I thought of mentioning anyone else's name but our employee, but it was clear that he was the subject of the call. Sure enough, beyond everyone's understanding, he had made a full recovery, and while he still had some recuperation to go through, he was back as if nothing had ever happened. He came to our office and thanked us for saving his life, and life as we know it went on.
Needless to say, this was an experience unlike anything I have ever lived, sure, I have seen miracles happen, and yes, I have seen the wonders of God at work, but this struck particularly close. I had seen him, we all had seen him close to death, farther gone from this world than anyone of us cared to recognize, even the emergency response team. We had all written him off as another casualty of life, and believed him to be nothing more now than a memory, but that was not to be, he is back and working as if nothing had ever happened.
Now I know this is not a resurrection moment, but there is something to be said about the miraculous event that took place. Just when the tomb seemed a certain reality for this worker, he proved to be more resilient than anyone expected. Just as we believed that he had become another part of our history, he made an impact by his return. But what most impacted me, was the possibility that this man's recuperation was no coincidence. First of all, he is a man of faith. I first discovered this when I celebrated mass at his parish. I remember being surprised by his devotion, but also pleasantly encouraged. He had shown that his relationship with God was strong and while he himself was not perfect, he knew Christ and communed regularly with God. Secondly, the fact that everyone had believed him to be beyond hope, and that he proved everyone wrong, has become a sign to me of God's love which surpasses all understanding.
And this all brings me to the Resurrection. I wasn't there, but throughout my own life, I have witnessed glimpses of the Resurrection, primarily in those moments when God's love became obvious through the unexpected. Just when I though I had it all figured out, or when I had thought that something was beyond hope, I realized the power of God's love as it is manifested in CHrist. Almost as if to say "Nope, let me handle this," God has taken control of things where I was limited. And that is what God does, just where we think we know the outcome of a situation, God is waiting to surprise us. Just when we think that the tomb is sealed forever, we come to realize that in the love of God, there is life and that Life calls us from beyond the grave. That is the most powerful thing for me, the fact that God's love reaches beyond our limits and inspires us to love! I cannot say that I am perfect or perfectly attuned to what God is doing in my life, but that isn't necssary. What is important is that we remain open to the movements of God's Spirit in our lives so that when we are faced with the grave, or a critically sick person, we too may know that life is just beyond, in Christ. He is truly the Resurrection and the Life, and I will choose to follow Him and love Him!
As always, remember that you are beautiful and that you are loved. Blessed Easter and Alleluia to you! Fr. Rick