This week I feel so blessed to be able to start my summer field education close to my church home and in a field that I feel I am called to.
Just after Easter I attended a meeting at Carlsbad-By-The Sea (CBTS), a continuing care retirement community with assisted living and skilled nursing. I met with the CBTS Executive Director, the Director of Resident Services, the SMF Field Education Director and my Sponsoring Priest and we all agreed that I could volunteer providing pastoral care in that facility.
Little did I know this also involved leading the “Service of the Word”, preaching most Sundays, attending the Chapel Committee and leading two Bible Study classes plus numerous other things that may arise such as attending social gatherings and maybe even playing some pickleball.
After 2 weeks of forms and tests (fingerprints, drugs, tuberculosis, hipaa, elder abuse) I was ready to start. My first assignment was to conduct the Service of the Word on the Sunday, including preaching a sermon on “The Road to Emmaus”. Never having preached before I thought this would be good experience for when I take a class on preaching. I elicited some knowledge and guidance from a very experienced preacher in sermon writing and delivery during the week and on the Sunday everything seemed to go well. Someone did mention that my 10 minute sermon could have been 3 or 4 minutes shorter but others said it was a little short. I am not sure what I will learn from that.
My first day of pastoral care was this past Thursday with a tour of the facility and an introduction to some of the residents I would be visiting and getting to know a lot better in the coming weeks.
This is an exciting opportunity but required a lot of prayer and listening before starting. In one of those sessions I was guided to make my pastoral care “guided by the Word of God”. So after reading and studying that weeks’ Gospel passage and drafting the sermon I decided to write about how the gospel passage for each week is lived in practice throughout the week (hence the Blog series title). I will try it and see how that goes but I am sure I will be guided to change if necessary
This week we read about a journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus which is both a literal and a spiritual journey. On one hand it recounts the story of two disciples who, after the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord, walk seven miles from Jerusalem to their village of Emmaus.
On the other hand, it outlines for us the journey that we all take from not recognizing Jesus, to understanding what the Scripture says about Him, to recognizing Him for who He is, and finally to our giving our own witness.
These two travelers walked and talked with Jesus but they did not recognize him until at supper He took the bread, blessed it and broke it and gave it to them. At that point their eyes were opened, they recognized him, and said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” .
We just need to invite Him in (“Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent”), listen and we will recognize that He is with us at all times.
At the CBTS facility there are many people who have journeyed for quite a while, some meeting and recognizing Jesus daily, other meeting Him occasionally and some may be not at all. This message is very relevant to all the residents I have met and will meet in the future.
This week there was one particular pastoral care visit that stood out. I visited a man in Hospice who is 99 years old and is declining in his later years. During his journey he was a renowned professor who taught and mentored many scientists that later went on to do great things, one even achieved a Nobel Prize. Although he is not very mobile and is hard of hearing he can still tell a great story about his lifelong journey but is also very concerned about his daily relationship with God. Each day he prays the Lord’s Prayer and the Rosary and this week was looking for a confessional type prayer. Together we prayed the Jesus Prayer until he could own it as another daily devotion. The look on his face when he recognized the significance of the prayer that acknowledges Jesus is Lord, that He is Divine that we are Sinners in need of His help and we can ask for Mercy showed me that he connected with our Lord that afternoon.
This was a time when I could see the Gospel reading for that week being reflected in a pastoral care visit and could feel my heart burning in this encounter. We recognized that Jesus:
1. Draws near to us sometimes and we are unaware
2. Meets us in our visits, prayers and worship, and He talks to us in many different ways so we need to actively listen
3. Stays with us always, so we just need to invite Him in and be comforted
This week in my study for preaching the sermon last Sunday and in my pastoral care visits this week I have seen that Jesus is beside and within us at all times if we just invite Him in to our daily worship and prayers and let Him guide us.