By Deacon John De Gano
An old man fled his hometown in the middle of the night, traveled a great distance, changed his name and attempted to blend in with those living in the huge city only to accidentally come face to face with the person he was trying to escape. Both were startled to run into each other.
“What are you doing here? Our appointment isn’t until tomorrow,” said Death, surprised at the man’s ingenuity and eagerness to save him a long arduous trip.
Without uttering a single word, the old man dropped dead on the spot.
And Death was able to take the next day off!
Timing is so important.
It can mean getting hired for a job. Meeting the person you will marry. Or catching the last subway train to your home in the suburbs. Sweet!
Bad timing can also impact our lives, as in the story above. It can even be devastating.
Now I’m a firm believer that God gives us opportunities for his blessings every day. Like the men going to Emmaus, I believe we can sense God’s invitation to us, but we need to be open to the encounter in order to receive it.
Many years ago, I sensed such an opportunity, only I failed to follow through. We were on vacation, and I was anxious to get back on the road. I chose the destination, rather than the encounter.
Today was different. It was a day of encounter.
Cheryl had the day off work and after I celebrated a graveside service at Riverside National Cemetery. We would go do a few errands and possibly head into Orange County for the Art Festival taking place in Laguna Beach.
I had planned to stop by the office to get my stole and alb before going to the cemetery, but thought better of it when traffic problems were being reported. Instead, I took with me my spare vestments from the closet at home. The closet rod suddenly came loose and as everything began to slide onto the floor I had to stop and pick them up. This caused a delay, and we rushed out the front door with fifty minutes to spare.
I began to second guess myself. Did I bring my holy water with me? Yes. What were we doing next weekend? I reached for my phone to check my calendar. I left it at home. How would I contact the family of the deceased if I was delayed? Cheryl had her phone. I had the contact information with me.
It was at that moment that I realized I had the wrong date! The funeral was not until next week! We were halfway there with no place to go. What now? Do we turn around and head to Orange County (sans phone)? Do we go on to do our shopping? Or do we punt and go to the movies?
We decided on the movies. And that is where we encountered God in the air-conditioned theater. We were sitting, watching the previews with our popcorn and soda beside us when a man walked gingerly past us down the aisle and sat down front.
We couldn’t believe it. He was someone we knew. In fact, we had visited him several times over the last few weeks, and he was having mobility problems. He had difficulty standing, let alone walking, but here he was! In the flesh. God was good! He answered our prayer. And we were present to celebrate his recovery.
It was an encounter with joy. The same joy, I believe, that the two disciples on the road to Emmaus felt when they encountered the Lord. They felt compelled to run back to Jerusalem to share the good news of Jesus’ resurrection with the others. And those disciples became filled with joy also!
Everyone, that is, except for Thomas… who wasn’t present when Jesus appeared. (Evidence that timing is everything). Thomas had to wait an entire week before Jesus returned. And then Thomas’ joy was made complete.
Like Thomas, the faithful will know eternal life. ‘For Death no longer has power over them.’
But, like the old man in our story, those who reject the Lord live in fear. And they cannot escape their final appointment with Death.
Deacon John De Gano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria parish in Riverside.