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The author is a contemplative nun who has written for Misyon a number of times before. ‘Flight 306’ isn’t that of any airline company but refers to the code number of ‘A Hidden Pearl’ in her community.
We missionaries, share the mission of Jesus. As his disciples our mission is: ‘TO LOVE GOD IS TO SERVE ONE ANOTHER, AND TO SERVE GOD IS TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER.’ We are on a journey striving to live as Jesus lived so that our lives may be fruitful for others when we die. Life is short, eternity long. We have only this brief lifetime to receive love, deepen love, grow in love, and give love. What a wonderful way for us missionaries to witness to the GOD of LOVE as his beloved children like his only Beloved Son JESUS on whom his favor rests. Our revered Co-foundress Mother Mary Michael left us a simple maxim on how to live in the following guiding principles of her life.
‘Live quietly with God
Work gladly for God
View things from God’s viewpoint
Talk things over with God
Glow with zeal for the glory of God
Find your joy in God
Rest deep in the Heart of God.’
This is really a simple but effective practice to be connected, with God which enables us to labor quietly in his loving presence in our life of WORSHIP – WITNESS – WORK. As we live so we die. I have become familiarized with death due to the ‘death rehearsals’ in my own life – three of which I now share with you – in August 1983, New Year’s Eve 1995 and August 2007. However, I survived and could remark in good faith and humor each time ‘FLIGHT DELAYED – back to the Father’s business as usual’.
I remember the first ‘death rehearsal’ when I underwent an emergency operation due to intestinal obstruction . . . and I stayed several days in the ICU. (An elderly Sister mistakenly called it the ‘Expensive Care Unit!) I could hear the muffled murmur, the hasty steps when I developed an erratic BP necessitating a quick cut-down surgery on my right arm. I was gazing intently and praying to the Crucified Lord: ‘My heart is ready, Lord, my heart is ready. Into your hands I commend my spirit. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, help me’. Suddenly a bright light engulfed the Crucified and I saw his right hand extended toward me, and heard his gentle loving voice: ‘Not yet!’ I sank into a coma for several days. Many prayers were offered for this ‘Hidden Pearl’ and even three bishops visited and blessed her. They are all now resting in the bosom of the Triune God, but as for me, I am still waiting in hope because of my ‘delayed flight’. My mission is still going on and I continue ‘to be more and to do less’ – meaning to be more loving, more compassionate, more forgiving, more patient and gentle because our being human is not in the things we can accomplish with our mind, but what is in our heart – TO LOVE and SHARE LOVE!
It was New Year’s Eve and I had a splitting headache so I took a painkiller. I was surprised that the pain got worse, and I felt my tongue hardening, and my speech becoming slurred. I went to the chapel thinking I could ask help from one of the Sisters at adoration. I made signs to her to call our infirmarian, but because of my slurred speech, she dashed out leaving me there at the door of the sanctuary. For my part, I thought my ‘hour’ had come and I joyfully prayed the ‘MAGNIFICAT’ with our Blessed Mother in front of our Eucharistic Lord. Soon the infirmarian came, brought me back to my room and gave me a sedative, and I fell asleep. New Year’s Day found the community rejoicing, but when I reported to our cardiologist he said with some alarm, ‘Sister, you had a mild stroke!’ What a surprise and revelation! Another instance of my ‘flight delayed!’
Well, I am still waiting in hope in the ‘Pre-departure Area’ at 83, striving evermore to be like JESUS and living as the Beloved – more human and holy in my relationship with God and fellow missionaries as I endeavor to have a ‘third eye’ in observing others, a ‘listening ear’ to hear, and a ‘hearing heart’ to be ever compassionate and understanding. Attentive to our Beloved who dwells in our hearts, we can live more meaningful lives and be effective evangelizers.
Our God is a God of Love, but I have experienced him time and again as a ‘God of surprises’: surprises which delight and, yes, also surprises that shock like my third ‘death rehearsal’. I was clearing up to prepare to go for our Noonday Office or Midday Prayer when suddenly everything around me was spinning rapidly and I felt dazed and could not stand. The dizziness got more intense and, snail-like, I managed to crawl to my bed. ‘My God! Are you there?’
I felt weak and helpless for some days, ordered to complete bed rest by the neurologist. Her suspicion was confirmed by the MRI brain scan – a mild stroke in the brain and chronic ischemia. More surprises! On 17 August my left arm was stiff and numb and I could hardly move it. The doctor advised immediate hospitalization. With blaring sirens the ambulance quickly arrived at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and I was brought to the Emergency Room and given all the ‘works’! Results confirmed what the brain scan had shown and I was confined for some days.
My courage and strength was the Lord who came every morning to be my bread of life and cup of joy. A welcome surprise was a visit by some of the ‘Blue Sisters’, the Mission Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Spirit (SSpS). They prayed over me, sang a healing prayer and each one blessed me. What a joy to love and share God’s love even when my ‘flight’ was delayed again. When I came home I greeted Sr M. Assumpta with the psalmist’s words, ‘I was punished, punished by the Lord, but not doomed to die’. In the dining room was a giant plastic sunflower balloon with a contagious smile and the large letters: GOD LOVES YOU! How I rejoiced at God’s merciful love and prayed in my Heart of Hearts:
Lord, how great you are! You want still to polish this ‘Hidden Pearl’ before she receives the crown of glory you promised. In that ‘hour’ may I hear your comforting words: ‘Don’t be afraid. You are safe. I am bringing you home. You are mine. You belong to me and I belong to you.’