Rising early in the morning on a bright summer day, Father Jacques Hamel likely never thought of this day, July 26, 2016, as the day that would be his last on earth. The eighty-five year old Catholic priest would continue his mission for Christ in the beautiful little church at St. Etienne-du-Rouvray in Northwest Franch, performing a daily routine he lived for so many years, ministering to his flock of parishioners in word, prayer and thought.
Arriving at the church, he began preparing for communion and prayers and reviewed his remarks to be delivered. Being a week day in a country that is now largely secular, he knew his audience would be small, largely elderly like himself, but he also knew that he needed to be there. While he was offered the opportunity many times to retire, his ministry and caring was his devoted purpose in life and he planned to continue until death took him if the Good Lord was willing.
With a small audience gathered and the good Father standing in front of the altar preparing the table, two young Islamic jihadis entered, approached and grabbed him and slit his throat. They yelled out the words "Allah Akhbar" as they committed their evil deed. With the audience in fear as they watched the horror, Father Hamel knew as he was dying that his time was up. He said a silent prayer before falling into eternal sleep.
The jihadis, part of the horde of supposed "refugees" that the French government sent to the area, thought that their actions provided the ultimate sacrilegious insult to a man they hated merely because of his faith and what it represents. They likely had been personally treated with kindness by a man who had been so generous in his life to others, yet their hate for what he represented hardened their heart to the point that redemption was not likely. If Father Hamel were still alive today, however, he would probably say that no one is past redemption, that all it takes is an open heart and receptive mind.
Much to the chagrin of the haters, the death of Father Hamel created the opposite effect of what the jihadis sought. His death instead clearly showed his devotion to the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ shed his blood for this wonderful priest as he did for all of us. And so the priest, ever true to his faith, shed his blood for Christ. A modern day martyr for Christ is born and will be an inspiration to us all. We don't know why things in this world happen as they do, but be assured that God is ultimately in control. And for Father Hamel, he is now at peace in a tranquil and joyous place in the presence of The Lord he loved so much.
His parishioners know that, too, since these were the final words spoken at his funeral:
"Jacques, you were a faithful disciple of Jesus."
There is nothing more that a Christian can ask to sum up his or her life. Rest in peace, Father Jacques, and enjoy your eternal future.