February 27, 2016
"Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your servants." From Today's Gospel.
I had been almost a year without confession back then.
I refused, rejected and even gave a million reasons to why I was not going to have confession, but my good friend grabbed me by the arm and pushed into the room.
There was a priest named Fr. Isaac waiting for me with a big smile on his face. I thought he was a bit odd and whatever was happening was just too weird.
Why would he smile at me if he didn’t even know me? “What’s with the sandals in winter?” I wondered.
I was deeply scared, I could feel the weight of my guilt traveling down my feet and round trip from my heart to my head.
Part of me wanted to turn around and run away from the so called “St Joseph friary” and never cross path again with these characters I had never seen in my life: the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.
I thought of the lethal shame I had reserved for when I had to confess at some point of my life, which seemed to be happening at that moment. But then I also thought that the priest in front me "Fr. Isaac" would remain a stranger if I never return to this “friary” place again.
“Maybe confession is not a bad idea after all” I thought. If I was not planning on having a second "friary/ feed the poor experience" in my life, might as well let the priest confess the hell out of me, be absolved and move on with my life.
There was an awkward silence.
Father Isaac gazed into my eyes as if he was looking for something and I evaded his eyes because they felt like fire, they were burning lamps screaming at me from within.
We act so foolish at times, we deny ourselves the mercy of God. More than shame, fear, or lack faith, it is the thought of failing, the reason why we deny ourselves the chance to be redeemed by Christ. We become overwhelm by the very thought of changing, because grace involves a change, a transformation, a radical commitment to walk in the light, the light where everything is visible: our wounds, our weaknesses, our sorrows…I was scared of this commitment.
I let myself been deceived by the idea that mercy was the result of what I had do in order to love God, when the truth is that mercy is the result of Christ’s death on the cross, God’s love in action, a result of my openness to his love, no more or less.
At first I conceived the idea of just having a “reserved confession” so that I would be absolved, but “not absolve” at all.
Yes... I wanted to get closer to God, but not as close as he wanted me, it was like saying “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as one of your servants.”
A son has to carry on with the name of his Father and make him proud, a servant just comes and go, gets paid and survives with the wage he receives, but would never inherit anything...no bigger commitments.
However, being in front of Father Isaac in persona Christi, smiling at me, listening to me, patiently waiting for me to let myself be loved soon broke the wall and silenced the voice of the enemy reminding me of my sins.
I was left with a clear view of who was Christ my savior, not just some guy people describe as nice, tender and supernatural. He was real, He was firm, He was solid, He was benevolent and He was there just for me!
“Should I still feel guilty? I asked Father Isaac after I received my absolution. To me it was just amazing to know I was being forgiven, and my sins had been forgotten.
“What do you think?” Fr. Isaac replied with the biggest smile and a hug.
Let’s pray those who don’t believe in Mercy, for those afraid of Mercy, for those re-discovering Mercy, for all of us who need Mercy to breathe and remain in Christ.
After that day (about 4 or 5 years ago) I never imagine that the priest who smiled at me for no reason would become a spiritual Father to me. In God’s sense of humor, after having planned to keep Fr. Isaac in my strangers list and never cross path with him (or his community), I ended up pretty much living with him a few years later when I became a live-in volunteer at St Anthony Shelter in the Bronx. Pray for him, and pray for more holy priest in our Church to show us the face of God through their vocations of Mercy, because their witness to the love of Christ's redemptive love can change someone's life.
Pray for us.