Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Christmas Feast - Gary Update



About the time Gary was admitted to the hospital he was in the middle of the push and planning for his Interfaith Ministry homeless/shut-in Christmas dinner.  A month ago a board of past participants from various Churches took over the planning, but Gary's spirit was truly the energizing force behind the event.

His intention for the Christmas Dinner was to feed the poor and disenfranchised. His agenda was to gather Christians together under the call of the Gospel and bring unity among the Christian community in service to the lowest and least of these.  Over the past weeks I've sat at Gary's bedside keeping vigil into the night while he was in a morphine and dilantin induced delirium and listened to him mumble and weep in his sleep about how many turkeys and cans of green beans and napkins and styrofoam boxes were yet to be donated to feed the 5,000 he hoped to feed this year. 

Gary is now in a nursing home, probably living out his last months, perhaps weeks. His constant conversation when I've visited was about The Dinner.  I saw him Thursday evening and he talked about the dinner again.  He said the beauty of it for him was seeing people who claim to love Jesus but never see or acknowledge each other all year coming together to do something for those whom Jesus loves. 
A local Mexican restaurant (El Penasco) closes on this day each year and donates his kitchen, staff and dining room for this event. The owner's name is "Angel", and indeed he is.

Our Mission was the 5 AM prep crew.  We started the dozens of gallons of green beans and corn, and began warming the tens of pounds of mashed potatoes and turkey.

At about 9 AM the rest of the donations of desserts, turkeys and the volunteers to pack and drive loads of dinners to the homeless all over Phoenix and serve the poor in the dining room began arriving. This is the production line for dishing up and boxing up the thousands of "to go" dinners to be distributed over two hundred square miles of the city.

The men from the Shelter/Rehab came at 5 AM to help set up. I talked to the House "lead man" and told him if there was any way to get the nursing staff at the Home to set Gary up and let him out for a few hours, try to work it out and bring him here...this is what Gary has lived for these last few weeks.  A few hours later they arrived with Gary in a wheelchair and an oxygen tank.  This is me, Gary and Fr. Damian, the priest of our Mission.

The Spirit of Jesus attracted the kiddos. The spirit of a man can be seen reflected in the eyes of children around him.

 Gary gathered the strength to stand up and survey the work of his hands in the vineyard of the Lord.




He sat in his wheelchair for about four hours and watched his dream fulfilled.  Thousands of meals went out the doors of El Penasco in the name of Jesus by those who love Him, hundreds came to the restaurant for a Christmas feast... because Gary had a heart for his Lord and Saviour and the ones whom Jesus loves.

I sat beside him and whispered in his ear:  "Gary, do you remember what Simeon said when he held Jesus in his arms? -  Lord now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace according to Thy word. For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people.  A light to enlighten the Gentiles and the glory of Thy people, Israel."

Gary wept.

At the end of the day, Gary rejoiced.  He is, as he said, "God ready."


 Yes, Gary, you have been good. Far better than I in my dogmatic correctness.

May God grant you a peaceful ending of this life and your good defense before the fearful judgment seat of Christ is a far better one than I have today.

4 comments:

margaret said...

He said the beauty of it for him was seeing people who claim to love Jesus but never see or acknowledge each other all year coming together to do something for those whom Jesus loves.

Outside of church that's the only thing I've heard about Christmas recently that's made much sense or I'd like to remember.

elizabeth said...

beautiful. my continued prayers for Gary. Nice to see him in this post.

Fr. James Early said...

Glory to God!

Philippa said...

This Christmas season has been a deep struggle, one full of anger and depression. A pastor said to me last night, "Look for something that will show you the spirit of Christmas." I realized that my focus has been inward for the last two months. Wrong direction.

Tell Gary his story and holiness has shown me the Spirit of Christmas. It is always and ever outward.

Thanks Gary. May God bless you. you have blessed me.