“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
These are the words of Paul to Timothy while Paul is under house arrest in Rome and expects his martyrdom to take place soon. Paul is reflecting on his life since meeting Jesus on the Road to Damascus, and his call from Jesus to bring the message of Christ to the Gentiles. He is concluding that he has kept the faith in fighting the battle Jesus gave him and has now finished that battle and race.
Last week, Ann, a good friend of ours from Armonk, New York left this physical world to be with God the Father. Like Paul, who brought the message and presence of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles two thousand years ago, Ann did the same in her time and place.
I first met Ann as a fellow volunteer religion education teacher of high school students in our small Catholic parish. She had a smile that radiated the joy and love of Jesus. Her smile sparkled like a diamond and served like a magnet, drawing people to her, and thus to Christ. Since I had never served in the role of a religion teacher before, she befriended me and became kind of a mentor.
After a few months, she started inviting my wife and me to various spiritual related events. One such invitation was to a week of Renewal in the Holy Spirit conducted by a group of nuns from Scarsdale at a nearby parish. The result was that we both ended up experiencing the release of the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
It was a watershed moment for both of us, renewing our relationship with Jesus and totally changing our perspective on all of the priorities of our lives. And what was the driving force for this amazing impact – the loving and gentle persistence of Ann, conveying the love and joy of God, as reflected in that beautiful smile.
The last time I saw Ann was in a nursing home with her husband Tony, living nearby one of their adult children. Though she was in a wheelchair and partially paralyzed from a stroke, she still had that beautiful smile.
Before Paul’s imprisonment in Rome when he was saying his final farewell to the Ephesians, he prayed that he would “complete the task the Lord Jesus had given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24)
While Ann fulfilled many tasks that the Lord had given her – loving and supporting her husband, Tony, for over 60 years, raising a family of three daughters and one son, she, like Paul, brought the love and message of Christ to many.
Ann, may you rest in the Father’s arms free of all physical limitation, with your beautiful smile still reflecting the joy and presence of God.