….Then came February 27. It was a Saturday.
I felt drawn to go spend time praying in the adoration chapel at my parish (which is highly unusual for me). Even though I felt drawn, I hesitated. My faults and failings besieged me. I decided to go to confession.
As I stood in line for confession, praying the rosary, I started to think, “No. I’m not going to the chapel. I think I would rather just take a walk outside. It’s such a beautiful day.” But then I started to feel like I really should go to the chapel.
This seemed like a much bigger deal than it should have been. I was in line arguing with myself about whether or not I was going to go to the chapel. Crazy. Finally, I decided to ask Jesus what he wanted me to do. It was a simple question.
Then it was my turn.
I entered the confessional and made a heartfelt confession. The priest gave me my penance:“I want you to spend 20 minutes in the adoration chapel. Pray to be set free from all that binds you, to be set free from your sinfulness. Ask Our Lady to pray for you. Then ask Jesus, ‘What do you want me to do?'”
Wow. I can’t tell you what those words did to me. I practically ran to the chapel! After 20 minutes, I couldn’t leave. I stayed an hour and twenty minutes. It was a beautiful time of intense prayer. I gave everything over to Jesus… again. All that I am and all that I have. I had a very keen sense that the Father loves me… and that Jesus had set me free. He had already set me free! All the fear I had about giving up patterns of thinking and behaving was gone. Just gone. And in its place was… joy!
Now, my time in the chapel wasn’t all roses. It’s not like I was caught up into seventh heaven.He showed me very clearly my own sinfulness. He laid my soul bare. But he also showed me his infinitely merciful and magnificent love. In those moments I knew that he loved ME!
For years I had prayed to know my predominant fault, my root sinfulness. I believed that knowing it would help me to overcome it. Knowing your predominant fault was encouraged by the Holy Family Institute. It is supposed to be the main content of your daily examination of conscience. I would pray, “Lord, is it pride? Anger? Lust? Sloth? Gluttony? Envy? Greed?” At times, I felt like I was close to knowing, but nothing ever sat right with me.
But in the chapel that day he showed me very plainly the root of my sinfulness: self-indulgence. He even led me to Chapter 5 of St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Do you want to know what self-indulgence is? Read Galatians 5. Wow. It blew me away.
He also led me to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Chapter 8. Live by the Spirit.
That was the answer to my question, the question that the priest told me to ask. I had asked Jesus, “What do you want me to do?” He answered, “Live by the Spirit.”
“But what does that mean – what does that really mean – for me?” (Especially as the Catholic Foodie. I mean, doesn’t foodie hint just a bit at self-indulgence?)
Jesus started to answer that question in the chapel. He showed me with blinding clarity that living by the Spirit is putting to death the flesh. In a word, it means penance. And, over the following month, he continued to show me what it means to live by the Spirit.
In an upcoming post, I will share with you some of the scripture passages that spoke so deeply to me that day. Perhaps they will speak to you too.
If you would like to check out the previous posts in this series, click on the following links: