Last Saturday, I walked my way to the Loop, the sun giving me an extra layer of gentle warmth on a crisp morning. I had a sense where I was going, the compass leading me being my spiritual compass, leading me to a church, St. Peter’s, for a celebration of God’s mercy. Confession. I have no problem going, but I do have some reservations regarding the priest. Perhaps bad experiences from the past have colored my current perceptions. Upon entering and signing up, I asked who was hearing confessions. The person welcoming me was very kind as she told me she didn’t know, and added, “Just go down those stairs and be surprised.” I was... in the best possible way.
The priest was both wise and kind, a glorious combination. St. Teresa of Avila avoided dim confessors, stating her famous dictum, “Give we a wise, smart priest over one who wasn’t bright but holy.” She chose intelligence over holiness. No wonder she is a Doctor of the Church. Most of the men surrounding her were quite dull in their intelligence.
My priest spoke words to me that clearly indicated his mind and heart were flooded with Grace. I left the confessional....NO.... I ROSE from my seat and left, just like St Matthew, when Jesús was walking by his tax-collecting post and called him to follow. In the gospel, Matthew didn’t just “get up,” but ROSE from his seat. That’s how the Greek word is translated. “Rising” snd “Getting up,” are two very different experiences. Matthew ROSE from his money table a different man.
I ROSE from my place, my mind imbued with graced- filled words of a priest, and left a renewed and different man. Matthew invited Jesus to a banquet at his house, most assuredly filled with a motley collection of fellow tax collectors, and Jesus showed up, in defiance of the written Law!!!! This is the God we claim to believe in, one who gathers the outcast, the sinner, the excluded- and eats with them.
Upon leaving St. Peter’s, Christ invited himself into my home, the house of my heart, the banquet being the rich fare of mercy and acceptance. The dessert was a beautiful smile that told me to create the same banquet for a fellow sinner. I walked back to my parish, almost skipping in childlike joy. But I chose not to embarrass my parishioners. I just walked back, but chose a different route.