“God has decided no man is worthy of the rapture. We are sinners and as such, must be judged. Give yourself to the Lord, that he may grant you life everlasting.”
“Jesus Christ was crucified, died and was resurrected to perform the work of his father. Our Lord now calls upon us to do the same, to allow him to use our earthly bodies as tools of his judgment, to allow him to take our souls to heaven.”
The congregation hung on his every word. Father Garrett stood in front of the altar, his white cassock glowed, illuminated by the sun shining through the enormous circle of a window above the altar. A crucifix hung below the window, the image of Jesus concealed beneath a large green tarp. He did not shout, it wasn't needed even with such a large audience. His flock was so captivated by his presence, if he were to whisper, they would crane their heads and cup their ears to hear his voice.
“We have seen the love our Lord has for his believers and the anger he shows toward those who refuse him. He blessed us, his children, with food to eat, water to drink, and air to breathe. When he cleansed the cities with fire, he gave that same fire to us for warmth. When the barbarian hordes ravaged the countryside – raping, pillaging, and murdering, he kept us safe. We have been spared the wrath of man so we may serve the wrath of God.”
Father Garrett moved with ferocity between the statue of Joseph and the statue of Mary that bordered either side of the sanctuary, his hand and arms flailing with exclamation.
“Not one among us has been exempt from bearing witness to the sinful ways of men. Not one among us is exempt of sin. Look to the person on both sides of you. They are sinners. I am also a sinner. But we all have accepted God into our hearts. We have repented and have been forgiven. Have you renounced your sinful ways?”
The congregation responded in unison, “I have.”
“Have you made penance for your transgressions?”
The congregation responded again, “ I have.”
“Do you give yourself to God and his son, Jesus Christ?”
“This is the reason we are here today.”
He paused to look out over the crowd. His face grew serious.
“The spirit of Jesus Christ is with us today. Who among you is prepared to take him into your body, heart and mind?”
Every hand in the church thrust upward, waving excitedly to the priest. Each man, woman and child shouted, “I'm ready, choose me!”
Father Garrett help up his hand and the crowd fell silent.
“I wish we could all participate as part of God's hand, here on Earth. As you know there are people in the world who still seek redemption, many of us must remain to show them his love. There still exist people like Mr. Jones here.”
He motioned to a thin, blonde haired man, sitting in the first row.
“Please stand Mr. Jones, and introduce yourself.”
The thin man rose and turned to is fellow church goers, who focused intently on him. His arms showed the healed pock marks of needle, as he spoke his parting lips revealed black and decaying teeth.
He spoke, softly but proud.
“My name is Richard Jones and I am a sinner. I was a thief and a drug addict but now I have purpose. I came to the church three weeks ago hungry, scared and alone. You all have taken me in, shown me kindness and taught me the way of Christ. I cannot thank Father Garrett or the rest of you enough.”
Mr. Jones sat back down, folded his hands in his lap and gave his attention to the priest.
Father Garrett began again,”This man's life is no different than yours' or mine. The details may be different, but the result is the same. Thank you, Mr. Jones.”
He nodded to Mr. Jones who bowed his head in recognition.
“Through God, this man has been saved. By joining us, he has been given the opportunity to aid those he was once like.”
He paused and moved behind the pulpit.
“The spirit of Christ is with us. Two of you have been chosen to join God's hand.”
He pointed to the third row of pews, his voice strengthened.
“Mr. and Mrs. Roth.”
An elderly couple hugged each other, they looked up to the priest with smiles on their faces and tears in their eyes.
Game show winners.
“Are you each prepared to receive the holy sacrament of communion?”
The Roths held hands and gazed into each others eyes.
They responded together, “We are.”
“Please join me at the altar.”
The entire pew stood, clearing a path for the couple. Mr. Roth held his wife by the arm, assisting her as they shuffled out of the row and up the aisle.
Father Garrett embraced both of them, then led them to the front of the sanctuary. He walked behind the altar, towering over the couple.
He projected, “Jonathan and Brenda Roth have been chosen on this day to become tools, held by God's hand. Through them, his work shall be done.”
“Amen,” the congregation called in unison.
Father Garrett faced the crucifix, genuflected briefly, then stood and prayed.
“Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, truly present in the Holy Eucharist.”
He pulled on a rope, raising the tarp that covered the image of Jesus. Once revealed, its head bent down towards the priest. The mouth sneered at him, biting the air.
“We consecrate our bodies and souls to be entirely one with Your Heart.”
Its body flexed, straining against the metal cables that kept it attached to the cross.
“Being sacrificed at every instant on all the altars of the world and giving praise to the Father.”
A length of tubing ran from inside the creature's leg into a plastic container stopped with a valve.
“Pleading for the coming of His Kingdom.”
The priest held a chalice to the valve, opened it and let the thick, viscous brown liquid fill the cup.
“Please receive this humble offering of ourselves.”
He drew a golden knife from the altar and flayed two small pieces of flesh from the leg of the crucified figure.
“Use us as You will for the glory of the Father and the salvation of souls.”
He set the flesh on a silver communion tray.
“Most Holy Mother of God, never let us be separated from Your Divine Son.”
With the filled tray and chalice in each hand, he went to the front of the altar and stood before the Roths.
“Please defend and protect us as Your special children. Amen.”
The couple looked up at the priest with longing faces.
“This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
He raised the flesh and set in on the Roth's tongues. They chewed briefly and swallowed.
"This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me."
He gave the chalice to them and they drank. After each was finished, they said, “Amen”
“Mr. and Mrs. Roth have taken the true body and blood of Christ into themselves. They are now part of God's hand.”
The congregation erupted with applause.
“This mass has ended, let us all go now in peace to the gates, so we may escort the Roths to the beginning of their journey.”
The pews emptied, the people filed out of the church and lined the sides of the road leading to the gates of the compound. Father Garrett and the Roths exited last.
Each church member took the couple into their arms in loving embrace and thanked them as they passed. As the newly honored members reached the construction of metal bars and wood boards that constituted the entry to the compound, the gates opened wide offering everyone an unencumbered view of the world outside their walls. The grass appeared to be painted green, the trees looked tall and strong. The scent from the wild flowers washed over them all.
It was their garden of Eden.
The moment the Roths passed through the gates, they closed and locked. They held hands and strolled down the path in front of them.