By Jack Conrad
“Do not worry beforehand about what you are to say. But say whatever will be given to you at that hour. For it will not be you who are speaking but the Holy Spirit. Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.” Mark 13: 11-14.
What an ominous prediction and prophetic statement.
One of my chaplains told me a day after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol that the unit he worked on was all abuzz with thoughts, shock and fear.
A doctor exclaimed in an early morning rounding that he was not surprised that such a riot could happen in Washington, as crazy as politics have become.
Two weeks later, another told me of watching the inauguration of our new president in a room where the patient and his wife were all smiles.
A dear family member sent me endless “proof” of the deep state’s efforts to overthrow democracy. I politely asked them to stop. They were offended.
Being divisive is popular now. I have heard that the way of Jesus is to find a third way. To me, that means not picking sides.
Jesus quietly sits and scrawls in the dirt while a woman is about to be stoned to death for adultery. He quietly says, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
As chaplains we also must find the third way, even if we have a bias one way or the other politically. We stand in the middle and search out Wisdom, which I believe is the third way. But how do we access it?
I think we need to have faith that it is embedded inside us. That in God’s calling to us to become chaplains and in our subsequent training, we may have developed special awareness of that embedded Wisdom.
One afternoon I was requested to the ICU, where a mother was passing. The distraught son told me that his wife, who had recently had a “born again” experience, had questioned whether her mother-in-law was going to heaven, because she had not declared Jesus as her personal Lord and Savior.
The CPE manual or seminary courses might have warned me about this type of encounter, but they didn’t provide a ready solution. So like Jesus in my own way I scrawled in the dirt, and cleared my mind as I looked at a grieving son, suddenly grappling with the idea that his beloved mother would not go to heaven.
So I asked, “Tell me about her?”
She was described as a loving, caring woman, devoted to her husband and two sons. Always good to her neighbors and active and supportive in the community. Certainly a wonderful person, who just was never religious.
After the life stories were finished, I said, “Well I can’t speak for God, but if I were God, I would sure want her in heaven.” It puzzled the daughter-in-law, but gave great solace to the son.
I did not know how those words came to me except for the Holy Spirit.
That is where the Gospel quote comes in. “Do not worry beforehand about what you are to say. But say whatever will be given to you at that hour. For it will not be you who are speaking but the Holy Spirit.”
So, my sisters and brothers in chaplaincy – Count on Wisdom and that you have access to it. Have faith that the words will come when you need it.
As we navigate through these times, with divisions so pronounced, and dysfunctional politics added to the dysfunctional families we may engage — find peace in knowing you are not alone, and we have an Advocate who is always a reflective moment away, if we just allow the Wisdom to flow.
Deacon Jack Conrad, BCC, is manager of spiritual care at CHRISTUS St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, NM.