Layman's Minute
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 We had noticed a weight loss some months ago and his wife said that he had late onset diabetes. His doctor wanted him to lose some heft, and since diabetes is no walk in park at any age, we simply accepted the explanation. On Sunday we discovered that it was really cancer… which explained the weight thing. As a part of treatment, they had inserted a PICC line in his chest to facilitate chemo treatment, but something went wrong and he died suddenly of heart failure. 

 While it was his choice to tell or not tell, and I’m not complaining here, the upshot was that we never got the chance to stand in solidarity with him, to pray with him, to offer support to his wife, and maybe not miss his funeral. We sat at the kitchen table that Sunday night, filling out a Jesuit mass card to send along our condolences and regrets, talking about why people choose to not share their personal challenges.

 “Not telling” is an observable phenomenon. We all have known someone who has sat on a physical condition, a personal tragedy, an addiction, or a family problem without discussing it with others. Theological cynics might say that it is a manifestation of the individualized nature of modern society, an inward looking focus that bypasses the Catholic communal nature of “And with you, my brothers and sisters.” But I think it is simply about our human nature; our need for privacy, our fear of not knowing, our feeling of the unseemliness in sharing our innermost life with others, and perhaps our pride. “Not telling” is a form of privacy that separates us from the others in our lives. It separates us from the reality of our condition. It separates us from healing and forgiveness. It separates us from friends; indeed it often separates us from God. 

 As we enter the Year of Mercy, my mind returns to grade school and the good Sisters of the Holy Cross who taught us the Works of Mercy because, both Corporal and Spiritual, they provide a benchmark for how we are called to live our lives. They are a door that unfortunately swings two ways, one for the merciful and one for the seeker of mercy. If one or the other doesn’t chance to open the door, the moment passes, and the opportunity is lost. We look for the wholeness of privacy in our lives, and perhaps we are too quick to turn our heads away from anything that detracts from it… in ourselves or in others. The choice to act, to seek or to offer, is theirs and ours.

 The Gospel that Sunday morning had been Mark’s story of Jesus and Bartimaeus. Blind, in rags, with only a beggar’s bowl, and unashamed of the Jewish inference of sinfulness by his forbearers that his blindness implied, Bartimaeus loudly called out for mercy, and Jesus heard and offered. 

 Should we do less?

Ted Furlow is Director of the Office of Pastoral Planning in the Diocese of San Bernardino.