Mercy- To Go
Originally published April 14, 2010
Here’s an interesting story. I was en route to another city, walking through a busy airport. I noticed this guy staring at me. Any priest, especially in this day and age, walking through a busy airport will always get these awkward stares. I originally thought he was going to ask if I was the priest he saw on the Food Network. I’ve been getting that frequently after the Throwdown! with Bobby Flay.
He didn’t approach me because of my delicious dishes, but because a priest wearing the Roman collar signifies a generous portion of God’s mercy. God’s mercy!
Without breaking the seal of the confession, I can say this pastoral moment was a unique outpouring of God’s infinite goodness. This man, who seemed to have it all, internally was “begging” to be welcomed back to the Father’s House. He was Baptized Catholic, but stepped away from the Church at a very young age. He claims it was because he was disappointed in the hypocrisy he saw from leaders and the people in the pew. While that may seem like a legitimate reason, I don’t buy it, and neither did he. He eventually admitted that his departure from church and religion in general (like the majority of people who leave the Church) was simply because he wanted to live his life precisely the way he wanted to live it – without anyone else having any say how. By leaving the Church, he could make up his own rules, his own morals, and his own destiny – without any moral consequences.
It’s true, hypocrisy in the Church is frustrating and discouraging. But there is no perfect church because it is full of people who are sinners. People who go to church, including priests and nuns, aren’t there because they are perfect. People should go to church because they recognize that despite their sins, God forgives and helps us to be better. When people start accepting the humanity of the Church, they will begin to see the divinity of our calling and go to church more faithfully.
Back to the airport story: This guy walked up next to me and simply asked, “What do I do with all of my problems and sins?” He didn’t have a lot of carry-on luggage, but carried his share of baggage much the same. My job was to lighten his load and allow him to carry God’s ultimate message of Mercy with him to his true final destination: Heaven.
Talk about asking for a priest to dish out God’s mercy, but mercy “to go?”
While he could barely remember how to go to Confession, his heart knew exactly what to do: admit the sin, be sorry for it, and promise to not do those things again. He didn’t know the Act of Contrition, but he did know how to be contrite. He also did not even know the Our Father. No one ever really taught him to pray. Thank God for the prayer applications he promised to download to his phone. On Divine Mercy Sunday, I helped this man make his 1st Confession in almost 15 years!
There we were in the middle of this airport’s intersection – a “Cross” in the roadway of life. At the heart of this busy airport intersection, I inconspicuously raised my hand over this penitent and prayed the words of absolution.
He asked for Mercy, and God gave it. Just like that. While this only took a few minutes (we both had flights to make), this wasn’t a cheap form of “fast food” faith. It was a sincere act of faith that will linger forever!
This man knows the next trip he is going to take will be to his local church to talk with the pastor. He knows there is need for a more detailed examination of conscious and a new itinerary to get his life back on track.
What a way to celebrate the Divine Mercy of God’s bountiful goodness. It shows that the grace of the Church’s ministry of mercy, while perfectly received when we go to church for Confession, is also meant to be served as “carry out.” I think that’s why Jesus gave his Apostles the great command: Go out to all the world and spread the Good News!
In this day and age, we who share in the Communion of the Lord have to remember that we shouldn’t take our faith seriously only when we are in church. We must take our faith with us wherever we go. And that’s the best way to live God’s merciful love: to go – whether we’re walking out after mass or walking to our connecting flight!
This time of the year, 4th-year deacons are preparing to be ordained priests. As part of their training, the faculty offers practical classes on how to give a good Confession. These zealous young men preparing for the priesthood are very eager to help people get their life in order. Sometimes, the youthful zeal can seem to intimidate people who may be struggling with fear to go to Confession, for fear of being judged. Not to worry, these guys know to be gentle as lambs in the confessional. It’s the job of their professors to remind these men of Jesus’ Divine Mercy – which, although perfectly realized in the confessional booth, must also be proclaimed throughout the world. Yes, we even have to teach these guys how to celebrate the Sacrament of Confession in busy airports too. Jesus is truly “on the go” with His message of mercy.
Let us Pray:
Father, help us to experience Your grace of mercy and forgiveness. In a special way, we pray for all people to return to the sacrament of reconciliation. Help the Church to be an instrument of this great gift. May all who desire forgiveness never fear to ask for it. Help the world to see that forgiveness is offered anywhere, everywhere, and anytime! Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
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