A Door In Paradise
Jesus said to the robber: This day you will be with me in paradise. Luke 23:43
How often have we known Christians pray mutually exclusive things for a person who is near death? This happened with Columba.
Columba prayed that the Lord would release him into heaven on the thirtieth anniversary of his ministry in Britain. On that day he saw two shining beings approach, on route to escort him to heaven and his face was wreathed in smiles. Two monks then observed Columba’s expression suddenly darken. They drew out of him the reason: although these angels had come in answer to his prayers, Christians in other places had been praying too – that God would spare Columba more years yet. Columba told the monks that, though he was disappointed, God would grant him four more years in answer to the prayers of the churches. The result was that Columba saw these angels withdraw beyond Iona.
Four years later, Columba knew the time of his departure had surely now come, and carefully prepared his farewells. He went round the island on a cart blessing the people and crops. He issued this statement from the store barn: ‘I heartily congratulate the monks of my community because although I have to depart from you, you have enough bread for the year.’
He sat on a seat as he returned to the monastery. His pack horse, sensing he was to leave earth, laid its head on Columba’s lap and began to weep like a human being. Columba told an attendant who wanted to shoo it away: ‘No. My fellow humans would have known nothing about my dying if I had not revealed this to them, yet God has clearly revealed to this dumb animal that its master is about to depart’.
Later, in a final spurt of energy Columba ran into the church. His attendant lifted his arm and Columba left this world blessing his brothers with the sign of the cross.
Almighty God, Father, Son, and `Holy Spirit,
to me the least of saints, to me allow that I may keep a door in Paradise. That I may keep even the small door that is least used, the stiffest door. If it be in your house, O God, that I can see the glory even afar,
and hear your voice, and know that I am with you, O God.