Full disclosure here: I neglected my Sunday obligation recently. I woke up feeling not 100% and just ready to visit with my family during spring break, so I loaded up and left earlier than planned and skipped Mass.
The following weekend, I knew that I needed (and wanted to go to Mass). I also knew that to do so, I needed to receive God's grace through the sacrament of reconciliation. So, I planned my Saturday afternoon to-dos around being able to attend confession and then Mass. We got to church time to spare. I dropped our jackets and bag in the back pew and made my way to the confessional. But as I approached the confessional, I realized there was no priest. I checked with a parishioner who was helping set up, who confirmed my fears: confessions ended at 3:30. Although I had arrived on time, I had definitely missed the window now at 3:35. I was devastated. I sat in the back pew holding my son and my soul cried out to God. What was I supposed to do now? I had made a good-faith effort. Should I hurry to my car and rush to another church, another confession? Should I just stay here, attend Mass, and try again next week?
Lord, I need you.
I eventually settled on staying, as much I wanted to receive Jesus in the form of the Eucharist, I wasn't going to be able to get anything from Mass if I attended much later and interfered with my son's routine. I offered my heart up to God, trusting that this worship would be enough this week and that our loving, merciful God would accept me as I was.
"Excuse me, one of my parishioners told me that there was a young woman with a baby who needed to go to confession-
"Yes!" I exclaimed.
The priest smiled down at me, "You know that God loves you very much, and is always ready to welcome and forgive us?"
I assured him that I did and explained that I had missed Mass last Sunday. Right there, in front of everyone, with only a few minutes before Mass was scheduled to begin, I was able to receive God's grace through absolution. He went to get ready for the Mass and I turned back to face the Crucifix in the front of the sanctuary. I hugged my son close and felt the deep, abiding love God has for me. I was forgiven. I was redeemed.
I know that this experience is not necessarily a by-the-rules confession. I know it wasn't the best confession I've ever made. But I also know that God isn't looking for perfect. God doesn't demand a black and white, by the book faith life from us. God just wants us to try to do better because God loves us and is always ready to welcome and forgive us.
Thank you, to that nameless man, who listened to God's gentle nudge to tell the priest about that young mama who needed to go to confession before Mass. Thank you, Father, for listening to God and reaching out to the tired, imperfect mother who desperately needed to feel God's grace. And thank you, God, for your infinite love and mercy.
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