I thought I was a loving, forgiving person who didn’t judge people and just wanted to help them. I really did. It wasn’t until I found my faith and a few years into my journey when God actually graced me with true love, compassion and forgiveness did I realize – uh, not so much!
Let me share a bit of this epiphany with you because it transformed everything in my life.
I stepped foot back into the Church on Easter of 2013 after practicing nothing for 20 years and frankly, not needing or looking for God. While I was sitting at Mass waiting for the darned thing to be over, I was forced to stay through the announcements before I ran to my car to beat the traffic. (I learned that one from my family as we did that every Christmas and Easter when I was a kid – the only time I went to Mass.)
They announced that the following Sunday, Divine Mercy Sunday, they would have confession after Mass at 2:00. First, what is Divine Mercy Sunday? Second, whoa…confession? Uh, I haven’t done that in – wait – let me do the math….carry the one – 26 years!
I sat there, a bit numb, thinking that if I believe half of a half of a half of a mustard seed of this Catholic Faith – I would go straight to hell. I wouldn’t collect $200 or a “Get Out Of Hell Free” card because I had many mortal sins on my soul! It was the first time I ever really thought about my mortality and heaven, hell or eternity. Hmph.
And that was it, I said, “Okay, for the first Mass in decades, that wasn’t so bad,” and I left feeling a little l lighter but I didn’t decide to go to confession. It would take too long to get into the whole story of how or why I was a direct recipient of God’s forgiveness on Divine Mercy Sunday but I can share what happened when I did go. I wrote a book on my journey if you are curious. “Am I Catholic?” A Struggle with Faith, Humility and Surrendering to God.
Divine Blubbering Sunday
It was 1:00 on Divine Mercy Sunday and out of the blue the thought came to me “Confession after 2:00 Mass…” little did I know this was the Holy Spirit talking to me. I had a really bad neck ache and I said, “Uh, maybe I should go – perhaps it will make my neck feel better!” I wasn’t aware of the Examination of Conscience at the time, so I grabbed an 8.5×11 sheet of paper and a pen and started writing. Then I flipped it over and kept on writing – I filled up both sides!
I arrived at the church and when I walked into the confessional I knelt down I said, like a comedian, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned, get a load of this, its been 26 years since my last confession!” I tried to make light of the fact that it had been a really long time. Then I heard this soft, sweet voice say, “Welcome home…”
Ugh…I lost it – I bawled like a baby! I could barely read my paper with tears welling up in my eyes and now streaming down my cheeks. The lump in my throat was so big I was surprised anything was coming out of my mouth. Oh, and there was not one single tissue in there, so my golf pullover took the brunt of my snots and tears. I think I was in there for like 30 minutes it really did seem like forever.
But when the priest began to talk and absolve me of my sins, I had this out of body experience. I was looking down at myself and I felt like my body was floating, although I could still feel myself kneeling. My body was almost non-existent and this peace came over me like a warm waterfall. I have never, ever, ever felt anything like it in my life. “What in the world is this?” I thought.
Then I tried to pull myself together, I must look like a total mess!. As I walked out I noticed there was a line out the door of the church and I felt so embarrassed, I thought, “Oh gosh, these people must think I murdered someone!” But I didn’t really care because I walked with such joy and such peace it was like I was floating out of the church. I have no clue how I got to my car. I sat there and cried for another 10 minutes just feeling such relief and love and acceptance. It was nothing short of supernatural.
If I Don’t Forgive, He Won’t Forgive Me
Forgive us our sin as we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation. (Luke 11:4)
Along my journey, I was reading in scripture and hearing on the radio that I, too, need to forgive others. God expects me to love thy neighbor and if I don’t forgive, He won’t forgive me. Whoa, that made me pause. I actually harbored really hateful feelings toward my very own brother. He struggles with alcoholism and I just plain didn’t like him and I wasn’t shy about it either – even he knew it. And I also had disdain for this man I worked with and I couldn’t get rid of these hateful thoughts. He even crept into my dreams and I had nightmares about him. It was like poison and I didn’t have the antidote!
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)
I tried and tried to forgive but I just kept feeling the same way. So, I decided to ask God for the ability to forgive my brother and this man. “God, you want me to forgive and be a witness of your Son, please grant me the grace to forgive as Jesus was put on this earth to forgive us!”
I Needed Help
It took a few months, but I started to change the way I felt toward my brother. I started to show love to him and hug him and kiss him when I saw him. Initially, he jerked back, because it was so weird for me to show him any affection. Most of the time he just sat there, let me hug him, he didn’t put his arms around me because he was probably in shock.
Then I started inviting him over to my house and I just kept loving him more and more. The more I loved him, the more he loved me! We kiss and hug each other ‘hello’ and ‘good-bye’ and we have cried about how many years we have missed. Yes, he is still an alcoholic, but I don’t care. He has even shared with me how happy and proud he is of the change from my executive career to my faith ministry. Our relationship has been completely transformed.
And the man I worked with, who I don’t see anymore, but I now recall the good times we shared and I sincerely wish him all the best and pray for him, too. It is so freeing and I no longer have him in my dreams or nightmares, if you will.
The grace of forgiveness comes from God and when you receive it nothing is ever the same. I now have compassion for people beyond words and I see Jesus in everyone! Praise and glory be to God!
As we approach Lent, let’s all remember that Jesus died for us – to forgive all of our sins. We are called to forgive others and sometimes, we need help to do that. Jesus is our Savior – go to Him – He will give you the grace to forgive. And when that happens, watch out, nothing will ever be the same!
For other ways my reality was flipped upside down when God found me, check out my free Podcast at www.realityreflections.com or on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify and many other syndicated media outlets.