It was an overcast Sunday. I went to Mass alone, because returning this first time had to be something I did alone. I sat in the parking lot and stared at the church. It looked menacing and I was intimidated. I could imagine how the prodigal son must have felt as he looked upon the place of his birth after foolishly squandering his inheritance. How would I be welcomed? What would people think of me?
I got out of the car and walked up the steps to the doors. I went inside and sat in the very last pew all the way to the right of the church. I tried to be as invisible as I could. As Mass began a sense of calm came over me and I was filled with a joy so great that it was hard to keep the tears from flowing and flow they did. I did not receive the Eucharist that day and that was alright by me. Jesus had welcomed me back.
Before I walked away from the Church those many years before I had been an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and I received the Eucharist every week. I did so without ever receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, even one time. As I have said, I was a Catholic with Lutheran baggage. I thought the Church was wrong to demand that only Catholics in good standing be the only ones who received communion. They would share the word of God with anyone who would listen but they kept the body of God to themselves. Why not give the body of God to anyone who wanted it and let God work from within those people. What could it hurt?
That was before I learned the original meaning of the word ‘sacrament’. Sacrament originally meant “oath to the death”. It was what Roman soldiers took to Caesar. When we go up for communion we aren’t going to receive but to give. When we accept Jesus in the flesh we are pledging a solemn oath to the death that we will give our lives for him. This is the most serious thing we can ever do and it should never be done flippantly. I think that if Catholics actually understood and believed what they were doing when they receive the Eucharist the lines to receive our Lord would be even shorter than they are today.
In the Lord’s Prayer we ask that we aren’t led into temptation. More accurately translated we are asking that we not be put to the test. We aren’t asking protection from any run of the mill temptation – don’t tempt me in taking a penny when I don’t need one or the temptation to eat too many donuts. What we pray is that we aren’t put to the ultimate test, the test of Peter. Would we freely go to the cross with our Lord the way he did for us or would we deny him three times like Peter did before the crucifixion? That is the temptation or test we pray we never have to take.
When I entered the church that day I did so without my Lutheran baggage, with a greater knowledge of what my faith teaches and an understanding that obedience is more pleasing to God than even sacrifice. This is the date of my second, my full and my complete conversion.
God wants to mold all of us in his image. Instead of being soft clay needing a gentle touch I chose to be granite needing repeated whacks with a large hammer. My rock hard heart was now beginning to soften.