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Saturday, October 24, 2009


I love the readings this weekend. The story of Bartimaeus has long been one of my favorites. This time, though, I'm not going to post anything new, but re-post what I wrote only a few years ago when we had the same cycle of readings. It was also a talk I gave to the RCIA class I was "teaching" at the time. You can find the original link here, although I am posting it fully below:


When I first began to reflect upon the readings for today, the 30th Sunday in Ordinary time, I initially had a different idea in mind as to what I wanted to talk about, but with deeper consideration, I saw that there is a theme running throughout, (beginning with Jer 31:7-9) which speaks of mercy, it speaks of going away in tears, consolation, and guidance. It ends in rejoicing. The second reading (Heb 5:1-6) speaks of patience with the ignorant and erring, referencing those called by God to offer gifts and sacrifices on their behalf.
Bartimaeus was me just a few years ago. I had been raised Catholic but fell away and was living a life in which I was involved in the occult, palm reading, and other things my Mom did not raise me to do. On occasion I attended Mass, and each time, I cried from pretty much the opening prayer until about a half hour or so after it was over. It completely freaked me out, and as a result, I rarely attended the same parish because I didn’t want people to recognize me as the “weird crying lady”.

Gospels of Mercy

A curious thing was happening during these years…I went to Mass so infrequently that I seemed to go only when the readings were about the Prodigal Son, or about similar themed Gospels such as this one about Bartimeaus. I began to think that the various parishes only recycled the same readings, over and over!

I remember, though, as I sat weeping at those Masses, how much the way I was living my life contrasted with what was being taught, and I was made aware, even though I didn’t want to see it, that the life I was living was one of darkness. I was really lost in all that mess. I was not living the life my Mom had intended for me, or that God had intended. I remember in those times, praying for Jesus to have mercy on me, to have pity on me. I was so blind, though; I didn’t understand that I was crying because Jesus DID have pity on me…and He was calling me to Him via the Gospels and the homilies - and the tears.

In this regard, Bartimaeus was far wiser than I, for in his blindness he still recognized the Son of God. I just sat there crying for mercy and when Jesus called me to Him, I ran away in tears.

The Problem of Confession

Slowly, though, I began to come back, and for a few years, I knew I needed to go to Confession, but I could not work up the courage to make an appointment and I could not bring myself to stand in line: the Weird Crying Lady strikes again! I’ll admit at this point that part of my struggle was with my pride; I didn’t want to be so exposed in my weakness.

The thought of going to Confession literally made me shake in my shoes. But I continued to pray for mercy, and I began to attend Mass more often, trying to go every Sunday. Unfortunately I also continued in my own personal darkness, living a life divorced from God’s will and everything I’d been taught about morality.

As it was, whenever I attended Mass, I felt like a fraud, like I was not holy enough to be there. If I saw the parish priest, I'd run away even MORE quickly; I was sure they could see through me, and if they spoke with me they'd immediately say I had to go to Confession. So I fled, not wanting to hear that. I knew it already. The knowledge was killing me.

No, disordered life was killing me.

But the Lord is faithful, especially when we are not.

Jesus went so far as to directly send me a Priest! I happened to be at a friend’s house one evening, and the priest at the parish I had been attending was a family friend, and “just happened” to be there for dinner. He and I had a great conversation about cooking, garlic, and wine or some such things. Through this conversation, I considered that he was a pretty cool guy...and maybe I should contact him and make an appointment for what promised to be a difficult Confession. I had a sense that he was an empathetic soul and that maybe I could trust him.

A few times I picked up my phone in an attempt to call to make an appointment, and then quickly slammed it down. A few times I went so far as to get into my car, drive to the parish for Confessions on Saturday...and as soon as I saw the Church, I hit the gas and got out of there as quickly as I could!

The Gospel for this weekend (Mk 10:46-52) refers to those who rebuked Bartimeaus, and indeed, there were those in my life, too, even as I prayed for the grace to return to my faith, there were people who rebuked me. They stood there as obstacles personified, giving every reason why I should not run into the loving arms of Our Savior. Every convert and revert hits this obstacle, time and time again. Every sinner hits this obstacle constantly.

God is faithful, and sometimes those who rebuke us have the opposite effect of what they intend. For some reason, I kept running into co–workers and other people who attacked the Catholic Church, and they ALWAYS brought up the Sacrament of Confession, claiming "it's not scriptural" or some other alleged complaint. Rather than being driven further from the Church, I began to ask questions I should have asked long before.

Finally, after watching EWTN, and doing some reading about the Catholic Church and our beliefs, as Easter was approaching I resolved that I was going to finally go to Confession. I did a web search of all the parishes in the area and found a communal penance service with individual confessions afterward. [Note: this was NOT an illicit General Absolution service, but an approved form which has a short liturgical celebration which includes absolution ONLY with individual confession, as is proper and required.]

I had finally reached the point where I realized that I really was completely wrapped up in my own darkness, and I knew that I couldn’t go on like that anymore, and I couldn’t keep running away from Jesus. I was literally saying to God, “Master, I don’t want to be alone in this darkness any more…I want to see!”

Firm Purpose of Amendment

One of my obstacles had been in my lack of understanding of the Sacrament. I actually thought that I had to perfect myself, I had to turn away from everything in order to have what they call a “firm purpose of amendment”. I knew that I couldn’t just change so drastically, and by going to Confession, I was, in a way, making a solid commitment to God. While I was quite a sinner, a healthy respect for God had been instilled within me and I did not want to make matters worse through any form of insincerity. What I learned was that it’s God’s job to perfect us, and that we can’t always just cast everything away without his Grace.

If we refer to the Gospel again, we see that the blind man cast away his cloak, a representation for sin and those things that encumber us and prevent us from following Jesus. Again, Bartimaeus was far stronger than I, or maybe most of us, because it’s so difficult to leave it all behind and approach Jesus. I couldn’t do that; I needed Jesus’s help and the grace of the Sacraments to give me strength.

So I went to the church that evening, and at the entrance there was an examination of conscience, which was, in a nutshell, a list of mortal and venial sins. For example, it listed the 1st Commandment: I am the Lord your God; you shall have no other gods except Me. Then it went on to list offenses which fall into this category, such as Occult practices; palm reading, divination, Tarot, etc. Well…THAT hit home! I actually became convinced that I was the WORST SINNER EVER.

Keep in mind that EVERYONE there was at that church for Confession…and the church was FULL! Draw your own conclusion.

I was already crying, and sat near the back of the church, listened AGAIN to the story of the Prodigal Son, and this time, I knew that it was all about me, and I saw the pattern of the last few years…all about blindness, returning home, and the rejoicing that followed. God was not trying to scare me away, yet as I stood in line for confession, I couldn’t stop crying. There I was…the Weird Crying Lady again.

I think I stood there for about 45 minutes or so, but it felt a LOT longer. I had hoped to go behind a screen, but the line there was MUCH longer and I realized that if I moved to that line, I might lose whatever courage I had and just leave...but I didn’t want to leave. It was time to answer Jesus’ call to me.

Confession To God Directly

One of the objections I’d always heard, and still hear from people, is that we, as Catholics, aren’t confessing to God...but to man. It’s important to point out that in Confession, we ARE confessing directly to Jesus, but the priest is there in persona Christi, which is a term you will hear a lot. It means, “in the place of Christ”, so while we may see or hear the Priest and what he has to say, when he tells us that we are absolved, it is not him speaking under his own authority, rather he is speaking as Jesus because it is JESUS who forgives our sins through the priest. So that night, it was Jesus I was going to see.

Finally it was my turn, and finally, I was the blind man who had come to Jesus, finally ready to say, “Master, I want to see.

I was a complete mess--that poor priest!

I could barely speak, so I just handed over the examination of conscience and said, “’s been about 12 years...”

There was a pause during which I was sure the full judgment I thought I deserved would come crashing down upon me.

“THAT’S WONDERFUL!” the priest proclaimed. “That’s GREAT! YOU’RE the prodigal DAUGHTER!


Not what I’d expected to hear! In spite of all the Gospels I’d heard, in spite of everything...I thought I deserved to be condemned and cast away. That’s not what happened.

I made my confession, most of it completely unintelligible, but this priest NEVER ONCE asked me to repeat what I had said...because he wasn’t the one who needed to understand, or decipher my words. He knew I was doing the best I could, and it was Jesus who heard every single word.

I will NEVER be able to explain what it was like to make my Act of Contrition and walk out of there, 12 years GONE.


And you know...I really could see more clearly after that day. I could identify those parts of my life that needed to change, and through this pivotal moment, I was able to find the courage to walk away from those things that had held me captive for so long.

I wish I could say that my life immediately changed, but it didn’t. I was still encumbered, like we all are, by various things, people, relationships, etc, which held me back, but slowly, through prayer, through the sacraments, through a true desire to follow Jesus, those things changed. Those things are still changing, every single day. And I’ve found that the closer we become to God, the more clearly we can see.

Twice in this Gospel, Jesus gives the blind man a choice, because we ALWAYS have a choice. When Bartimeaus called out to Him, Jesus didn’t just go to him, but he CALLED to him in response. He gave him a choice rather than approaching him on the roadside. He was asking for a commitment, a willingness to do something other than sit there and cry.

Then, again, after he restores his sight, Jesus tells Bartimeaus, “Your faith has saved you...go your way.” And Bartimeaus, his sight restored, chooses to follow Jesus. He could have gone back to his old life…he could have just walked away, grateful but unchanged. Jesus gives us all this choice and does not enforce it. He tells us to go our own way…and lets us make that critical decision.

Our way...or God’s way?


pennyante said...

Thank you Adoro... That was quite beautiful.. the way that God works.

I have a story too... One that has similar elements to yours... One that is still ongoing... as yours is.

saintos said...

Hey Adoro, wonderful post and thanks for re-posting it.

What I'm about to say is sort the of thing one says if one isn't afraid of being accused of being holier than thou (as I was in an old blog of mine where I said it) but I'll say it anyway...I love Confession.

Sure, I don't always like it but I always love it and I go often. I don't always like it in the sense of, who really wants to go and tell someone that, "I've been a real ----, again"? But I love it more than I don't like it.

In fact, at the risk of sounding like I'm one of those people who thinks I'm more Catholic than the pope (which I don't think I am) I never had a problem with the whole concept of this rite of the Catholic Church as an incoming convert, in fact, I welcomed it.

I made my first Confession and only brought two things to the table, or the screen, as it were. I confessed a lifelong habitual sin that I'd never broken free of as a Protestant, not with the literally hundreds and hundreds of times I'd prayed straight to Jesus only without an intermediary (as in how 1 Jn 1:9 gets interpreted in many circles), no freedom no matter how much claiming bible only verses I did, no release from that sin in charismatic healing services and bondage breaking retreats, not with peer to peer "confession" not with anything! But, following absolution in the sacrament of Confession I received a healing so solid that I have not faced that sin since and it's everyman's problem, if you understand - no cake walk sin.

One more thing...a priest once told me that when a person avoids Confession we rob him of one of the two most moments of greatest intimacy a priest can have with God, the other being the other time he stands in persona Christi, that is at the Eucharist. That stuck and I've often thought if all those Catholics who say they are concerned about a priest's opportunity for real intimacy - such that married clergy would be the answer - would just go to Confession more often that problem would be greatly reduced.

Adoro said...

pennyante ~ It's ongoing for all of us, isn't it?

Saintos ~ Powerful, isn't it? I, too, love Confession, which is good as I need to go frequently! But like you, no, I don't always like it. It's so necessary, especially in those times where I don't like it!

And how true, depriving the priest of that moment of intimacy...hadn't thought of it that way. It also prevents the grace owed to the entire Church, because the priest stands there and forgives also on behalf of the entire Church!

Austringer said...

Hey Saintos,

You're not alone. I love this wonderful sacrament, and go often.

Adoro, I like the photo change!!

Adoro said...

Austringer ~ Thanks, took the pic yesterday, it's the South Rose Window and Dome, and Sacristy of the Cathedral of St. Paul. I think it's a bit dark, though. Not sure how it jibes with the blogger coloring...

Anonymous said...

Amen to what everyone wrote above. I'd love to go to Confession more often if our parish would schedule it, because God knows I need it!

BTW, my husband hasn't been to Confession for at least 31 yrs. as far as I know, so 12 yrs. isn't too bad. Please pray for him, and for me, because it's rough being married to someone who thinks all our problems are my fault.

Adoro said...

Anon ~ None of us can compare ourselves to each other. It's NOT GOOD that I was away for 12 years, and in the end, whether any of us are away for 12 or 31 years is a moot point...where we end up by God's Grace is what's important. Your husband and you both could be canonized Saints while I end up damned to Hell through my own obstinance.

It's not a comparison and it's not a competition. So first, get away from the idea of comparison in the realm of holiness. There is no comparison, but us each individually to God...and the goal is to be like Him.

Pray for your husband, sacrifice for him. Don't give up. Don't despair.

Certainly I, and I'm sure, my readers, will pray for you. Rejoice in being called to suffering, for that is where you meet Our Lord! Jesus is with you!