In my life, there are so many times when I consider giving up and walking away from my calling. There are those who have abused and defamed me. My life has been a struggle with one health issue after another. This week, in the midst of dealing with heart issues, I received a reminder of why I continue to do the work of ministry.
A lovely older lady requested that I come to see her. She had not been to church in 40 years. Guilt, pain, rejection, and a host of other reasons kept her from experiencing the grace that is supposed to be freely given. Her granddaughter called me because she wanted to go to confession.
As I stood by her bedside and listened to her confession, it struck me that she had done more than enough penance over those 40 years. You see, for 40 years she had beaten herself up for the sins she had committed. She had lived in guilt and pain that was unspeakable. What penance could I give her?
I gave her no penance. She had spent a life time making amends for the things she had done.
I did give her absolution. And as I spoke those comforting words of absolution, she sobbed. All that guilt, pain, self-imposed separation was now gone! She was free! The chains feel off and she could truly smile and be at peace.
I even offered her communion. And she received with such piety and grace. She held the Blessed Sacrament in her mouth until it was completely dissolved and the tears ran down her cheeks again. When she opened her eyes again, I could see that she was a new person. The women I met on my arrival was no longer here. She was a new creation in Christ!
Several thoughts came to mind as I left. The first of these was that this lady had spent 40 years away from the church and the sacraments. Just like Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, the children of Israel wandering in the desert for 40 years, she had come to the end of a long journey.
The next thought that came to mind was one of sadness. The family of this lady had called several Roman Catholic priests in the area. None of them would come to her bedside because she was not one of theirs. She had been gone from the church for 40 years and was worthy of their care. They not only denied her the grace she needed, but they denied themselves of the grace received by helping her. It was a great loss for them to experience this wonderful, transformative moment.
Lastly, it struck me that far too often we all allow pain, guilt, and doubt to stop us from reaching out for the grace God gives to us freely. The image of Adam lazily reaching out to God who is reaching beyond 50% of the way to Adam is an accurate depiction of grace. God does not call us to meet him half way, rather God calls us to reach out. We need not have 100% faith or be 100% perfect. We just need to reach out as we are.
Today, take time to reach out. Be there for those who need it most regardless of who they are or what they have done. Do not turn your back on those who need our help. And above all, love without counting the cost.