Last week we started the story of Tommy, a former student in the Rev. John Powell’s class who gave up on trying to find God after he was diagnosed with an incurable cancer. Tommy continues to tell his story to Powell.
“I decided to spend what time I had left doing something more profitable. I remembered something else you had said: “The essential sadness is to go through life without loving. But it would be almost equally sad to go through life and leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you had loved them.”
“So, I began with the hardest one, my Dad. He was reading the newspaper when I approached him. ‘Dad.'”
“Yes, what?” he asked without lowering the newspaper.
“Dad, I would like to talk with you.”
“It’s really important.”
The newspaper came down three slow inches. “What is it?”
“Dad, I love you, I just wanted you to know that.” Tom smiled at me and said it with obvious satisfaction, as though he felt a warm and secret joy flowing inside him.
“The newspaper fluttered to the floor. Then my father did two things I never remembered him ever doing before. He cried and he hugged me. We talked all night, although he had to go to work the next morning. It felt so good to be close to my father, to see his tears, to feel his hug, to hear him say that he loved me.”
“It was easier with my mother and little brother. They cried with me, too, and we hugged each other. We shared the things we had been keeping secret for so many years. I was only sorry about one thing – I had waited so long to open up to all the people I loved.”
“Then, one day I turned around and God was there. God didn’t come to me when I pleaded with him. I guess I was like an animal trainer holding out a hoop, ‘C’mon, jump through. C’mon.'”
“Apparently God does things in God’s own way and at his own hour. The important thing is that God found me! You were right. God found me even after I stopped looking for him.”
“Tommy, I think you are saying something very important. You are saying that the surest way to find God is not to make God a private possession, a problem solver, or an instant consolation in time of need, but rather by opening to love.
“The Apostle John said, “God is love, and those who live in love are living with God and God is living in them.”
“Tom, could I ask you a favor? Would you come into my present Theology of Faith course and tell them what you have just told me?”
“Let me think about it.”
In a few days, Tom called and said he was ready for the class, that he wanted to do that for God and for me. So we scheduled a date.
However, he never made it. He had another appointment, far more important than the one with me and my class. Of course, his life was not really ended by his death, only changed. He made the great step from faith into vision. He found a life far more beautiful than the human eye has ever seen or the ear has ever heard or the mind has ever imagined.
Before he died, we talked one last time “I’m not going to make it to your class,” he said. “Will you tell them for me? Will you tell the whole world for me?”
“I will, Tom. I’ll tell them. I’ll do my best.”
Thank you for listening to Tommy’s story. – John Powell, S.J.