1 Corinthians 1:17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. 18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
It was just after lunch when the call came in. It was midsummer and although the church was large with many clergy, there were only two of us in town. The church secretary said, “There is a young man on the phone who’s in the hospital and wants to talk to a priest. Joe’s still out and I don’t think he’ll be back for a couple of hours.”
“I’ll take the call.” I replied.
The voice on the other end was hesitant, and young sounding. “You don’t know me” he said, “The nurses said that your church was pretty close to he hospital. I need to talk with somebody about God.” “That’s sort of a main interest of mine.” I said, “Tell me what is going on.”
What unfolded was a story of a 23 year old man. He was dying. He’d found a Gideon New Testament the day before and had begun to read.
He had no church background or religious background. His parents had divorced when he was young, and neither of them had ever been religious. He’d been reading the Gospels and some of Paul’s letters.
“I always thought there might be a God, but never really bothered to find out anything more. But in this letter of Paul’s he lists some things that are serious sins. I found some of my behaviors on this list. I’m worried about what might happen to me when I die.”
After a little more discussion, he got more specific, and a life of teenage and young adult dissipation poured out. I asked if we could continue to conversation in person, or if he’d prefer to talk to an older priest friend of mine.
“I’ll talk with anybody. I need to know what to do.”
At that moment the secretary appeared at the door, indicating that I needed to take another call.
“Can you hold on a moment? I promise I won’t hang up, I’ll be right back”
I picked up the other line, and it was Father Joe. In his northern English accent he said “I just popped round hospital, saw a parishioner and am about to head out. Thought I’d best check to see if things are OK before I go on.”
“Well, as a matter of fact…” I began.
A few moments later, Joe was at this young man’s bedside. After about an hour of conversation, the young man asked if he could pray and invite Jesus Christ into his life. Joe led him in a simple prayer.
Joe visited each day for the next four days. The afternoon of the fourth day, the young man passed away.
A couple of days earlier he told Joe. “All my life, I’ve searched for love and happiness. There were times when I thought I’d found them, but they never lasted. Thank you so much for coming. Because of you, I found Jesus.”
Joe said to him gently, “No lad, he found you. He’s always got his eye turned toward the lost sheep. Trust me, I know, for I was one myself.”
What Wondrous Love Is This
By: American Folk Hymn ca. 1835
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, That caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!
When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, Beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul for my soul,
Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.
To God and to the Lamb I will sing, I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb I will sing;
To God and to the Lamb, Who is the great I AM,
While millions join the theme, I will sing, I will sing,
While millions join the theme, I will sing.
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on;
And when from death I’m free, I’ll sing on.
And when from death I’m free _I’ll sing His love for me,
And through eternity I’ll sing on, I’ll sing on,
And through eternity I’ll sing on.