Yesterday I sat with a man who was worried. Someone he loved was sick. Chemo. A scan in six weeks would tell the tale. Meanwhile, the loved one was feeling fine. There were sick days around the infusion, but then it was as if nothing was wrong.
Still. The scan in six weeks.
Increasingly I find pastoral care more difficult and rewarding. When I was a younger priest I met with people in pain, did my best to listen and offer encouragement. Then I went back to my life and my work. It wasn’t exactly compartmentalization, it was simply that I had not experienced enough suffering. I was not a bad pastor, I had not undergone enough of life’s travail.
In this moment I felt the sadness of my friend. I hardly knew what to say, because I understood how nearly impossible it is to accept the happiness of this moment—when we are not sure of the next and the next and the next.
We looked out the window at a cloudless June morning. It was all glorious. “There is joy today,” I said, “and no one, least of all this one you love, will be better off if you choose to be anxious about the future instead of living in the glory of today.”
We prayed for healing. We prayed for courage and patience and greater trust. Then my friend left.
Later I remembered those simple but nigh-impossible words of Jesus. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow” (Matt. 6:33). I went to my bookshelf and pulled down a worn favorite by Anthony DeMello. The Song of the Bird is a collection of little stories and parables. In a moment I found it.
The Japanese warrior was captured
by his enemies and thrown into
prison. At night he could not
sleep for he was convinced that he
would be tortured the next
Then the words of his master
came to his mind. “Tomorrow is not
real. The only reality is now.”
So he came to the present—and