The sun was already hidden behind the clouds. The moon and the stars bring sparkle to the dark blue sky. I looked around and saw that there are already people seated on the monobloc chairs; while Jun, our technical assistant, was busy setting up the computer, lcd projector and the sound system. I approached him and greeted him “Happy New Year!” I hurriedly enumerated to Jun the items we would be using that evening to check if everything is ready. He assured me that all is in place. Then, I saw our lectors/readers, commentator, instrumentalist and singers arrive one by one. I felt relieved. But we still need one more reader and the ushers have not yet arrived. I walked around the clubhouse to look for a couple who can carry the wine and the host during the offertory. Thankfully, I found one right away who readily accepted my invitation. I gave them some instructions and waited at the back for the ushers to arrive.
Then, I saw the priest presider step into the clubhouse from the entrance near the Administration Office. I started to panic and texted the ushers right away. As soon as I sent my message, I saw a familiar face walk into the clubhouse. I hurriedly approached him and asked if he could be one of the lectors that evening. He readily said yes and excused himself so he can get his eyeglasses. That was Mr. Tony Asence. He’s the only male volunteer among our readers and commentators. He started serving as lector during our Simbang Gabi masses last year. He’s one of the blessings God has given me personally as I organized our masses in our condo community. He was also a very big blessing to the residents who attend our masses because he read very well and very clearly. He had a well-modulated voice that proclaimed God’s Word effectively during the mass. Thus, I was not surprised when I found out that he was a broadcaster in the past. Our ushers came and our first anticipated mass for the year 2011 started. Mr. Asence read one of the readings; and as usual, many felt happy to hear him read the Word of God loud and clear.
That was more than week ago. Yesterday morning, Mr. Asence passed away.
I received a text message from another resident yesterday morning informing me of his demise. I initially thought that the one who sent me the message made a mistake. I also prayed that it was just that… a mistake. Our Liturgical Committee has just met the night before. Although Mr. Asence wasn’t there last Saturday because he needed to go to the wake of a relative who passed away; he expressed his willingness to serve as lector in the succeeding masses. We even assigned him to read the first reading on February 5 when our weekly masses start next month. But the one who sent me the message confirmed with me that he truly passed away yesterday morning due to heart attack. I was shocked. I also felt sad that one of the volunteers in our Liturgical Committee can no longer serve in our next masses permanently. We will surely miss him and his voice that echoes around our clubhouse walls each time he proclaims God’s Word during the mass.
My family prayed for his soul as soon as we confirmed his death. We offered a decade of the rosary to him as we prayed on the car on our way to celebrate mass and attend a prayer meeting. I wished that I would have the chance to pay my last respects to him and go to his wake. God granted my wish for I was informed yesterday afternoon that his remains are in Cainta. My family was in San Mateo then, visiting my parents and my brother. I felt happy that God made a way so that I can at least drop by at the wake.
We were planning to go to the wake around 7 pm. But we were delayed because it took some time for our two year old son to finish his dinner. Moreover, he pooped when he was about to finish his dinner so we had to clean him first before we could finally leave my parents’ house. But I was glad I still chose to drop by at the wake even though it was already late; for I wouldn’t discover the miracle that God has done in Mr. Asence’s life through the masses that we organize in our community if I had not done so.
I learned from his older sister that serving as lector in our community masses has given Mr. Asence so much joy. She said that he looked forward to those times and he would even call her just to tell her about it each time he would be assigned or asked to read. His sister thanked me for giving him the opportunity to serve and use his voice and his talent to serve the Lord in our masses especially last year during the Simbang Gabi because she said that it made her brother very happy. She said that many were shocked because of his sudden death; but she was comforted somehow to see that her brother was at peace and happy when he died. She then invited me to look at his brother in the coffin.
She was right. His face was a picture of serenity. It was a face of contentment and joy. As I gazed at Mr. Tony Asence’s face one last time, I thanked the Lord for giving me the opportunity to serve with him even for a short time. I thanked the Lord that He has paved the way for us to have the Simbang Gabi last year in our community for the first time. Through them, Mr. Asence was able to use his God-given gifts to bless us, his neighbours. I thanked God for the opportunity to know about this miracle that He performed in this man’s life. I may not know him well. But I do know that he was a man who spent his last weeks on earth serving God through his talents and allowing God to use him as an instrument of blessing to others.
I only stayed in the wake for a few minutes. I talked briefly to his sister and daughter, said a prayer and left. I brought home in my heart however, an abundance of insights from what I have discovered and learned.
I could not help but shed some tears as I pondered on yesterday’s events and as I remember Mr. Asence. I thanked the Lord for the grace He has given me to courageously accept the task and responsibility of organizing the Simbang Gabi last year. I have just discovered another miracle brought about by the Simbang Gabi masses and the anticipated masses we hold in our condo community. I’m very happy to know that another life has been touched and that my sacrifices made a difference in someone’s life particularly during his last days. I feel honoured and at the same time humbled. I feel that what I’m doing is just a speck compared to the great miracle that the Lord is giving us at every Eucharistic celebration. Nonetheless, my heart is filled with praise and thanksgiving for He has chosen me to work with Him in bringing His love and His mercy to many. This is one more story that I will treasure and ponder in my heart as I head our community’s Liturgical Committee. I may not know the extent by which the rest of our neighbours who attend masses in our clubhouse are blessed. But I’m content right now to know that truly, the miracle of the Holy Mass continues…