I ran into a friend of mine, now-ordained, at an event where we were both volunteering.
On the way to our cars, I asked if he would hear my confession, and he said he would, so we paused, in the cold January air, in a salt-stained back parking lot off of a busy road. The wind was blowing, but gently, and I could see some Canada geese riding the wind in the distance, and a bunch of tall-grass was swaying out of the corner of my eye. The wind brushed across the back of my neck, and I stared at his black shoes and started.
“My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart…”
I met the priest years ago at a World Youth Day, when we were both babies and he was not yet ordained. And, here we now were, me rushing between responsibilities, him meeting me with grace, in a back parking lot, probably never-before-used as a confessional.
Life is full of blessed surprises.
I finished saying my end, rolling through the ways I’ve fallen short. I paused.
If they ever ask me what penance I would pick for myself, I always say, “Something hard. Give me something hard, please,” because rattling through failures and thinking about the love of Jesus tends to make me feel like a real winner, if you know what I mean.
But, then they’ll inevitably kindly half-smile and say, “No. I’m going to give you something easy. Something easy, so you remember what it feels like to know the mercy of God.”
Giving up their healthy shots as husbands and daddies and CEO’s and all other things that one could dream about…so they can extend mercy and grace.
In a parking lot.
On a cold winter day.