His Dying Face

THE FACE OF MERCY: Stories and Reflections from the streets of New York

“Jesus Christ reveals the face of the Father’s mercy.” (Pope Francis)

Of You my heart has spoken: Seek His Face.” (Psalm 27)

March 11, 2016

I had never met this woman in my life. And all of sudden, here I was at her most significant hour – the moment of her death.

I had stopped in the hospital chapel yesterday to pray before beginning my rounds. Before leaving the chapel, I chatted briefly with the priest chaplain there. He mentioned the name of a woman, Maritza*, that I could visit. She was staying on the seventh floor, and she was dying.

“She’s not alert, but maybe you could pray the Divine Mercy chaplet with her. Pray for her peace at the time of death,” Father suggested. I was touched when he spontaneously gave me a blessing as we parted – “for your mission!” I headed straight for the seventh floor.

I found Maritza’s room and peeked in. I approached her bed next to the window, where she appeared to be sleeping. Maritza was an older, but not elderly, woman. I noticed a small cross tattoo on her arm. She was breathing through a ventilator.

I began to pray silently for a few minutes. Suddenly, Maritza opened her eyes and stared at me for a few minutes. I smiled, introduced myself and held up the rosary I was using to pray. It didn’t even occur to me until now that Maritza may not have understood English.

I prayed the Divine Mercy chaplet out loud and noticed Maritza shift her gaze intently to a point across the room.

For the sake of His sorrowful passion…

She licked her dry lips.

…have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Maritza struggled a little to breathe.

For the sake of His sorrowful passion…

Her head turned toward me and we just looked at each other.

…have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Then – I saw Jesus.

For the sake of His sorrowful passion…

I can’t describe it fully. But as I gazed at Maritza, I saw Jesus. I saw Him hanging on the Cross. I saw Him struggling to breathe. I saw His Face, tired from the struggle. I saw the strange surrender written in His eyes. I saw His dying Face. It was one of the most beautiful moments of my life.

…have mercy on us and on the whole world.

Maritza closed her eyes. She turned her head. She sighed and her weary body seemed to settle into the bed. Her breathing slowed.

For the sake of His sorrowful passion…

I leaned over to see if Maritza’s chest was rising and falling. Something about the noise of the ventilator seemed different. I reached out and put my warm hand on hers. It felt cool.

…have mercy on us and on the whole world.

I held Maritza’s hand for a minute and entrusted her to Jesus. Awed, I thanked Jesus that I was the one privileged to be here with her so that she would not die alone. The sacredness and peacefulness of that moment is indescribable. It was like time had stopped so that eternity could begin.

And for Maritza – it had.

Jesus, I trust in You.

Jesus, I trust in You.

Jesus, I trust in You.

– LAMP Missionary Kirsten Goza