A few days ago, I was sitting in a room that appeared to be a doctor’s examination room. It had an examination table along with the typical tools that a doctor would use. I sat on the doctor’s stool, waiting. The first ‘patient’ came in and he sat a few inches from me. He had a muscular build and it looked as though he weighed nearly 300 pounds. Just minutes into our conversation he broke down and cried, all the while we were both annoyed with the flies that were all about us. When we were through, I handed him a piece of paper and he left. Then another large man came in and I observed that every inch of his forearms were tattooed with different sorts of skull designs. The flies annoyed us as well. I told this man, “You know the evil one is like these flies. They don’t weigh much, and they really don’t have much power at all, but like these flies, the evil one knows how to distract us and how to push our buttons.” When we finished, I also handed him a piece of paper and he left. The cycle of men entering and leaving continued for more than an hour. As I came out of the doctor’s room and looked down the hallway, I noticed that at least one of the guys was trying to read the piece of paper that I had given him. No, it was not a prescription, but a note containing a conversation between Jesus and a sinful soul as written down by St. Faustina Kowalska, a saint who spread the message of Divine Mercy to the world.
I asked each of the guys at the prison who came in for confession to read the note as if Jesus was speaking to them. One of the guys said that he could not read it because he is far-sighted, so I read this portion to him: Jesus said to the soul:
“Be not afraid of your Savior, O sinful soul. I make the first move to come to you, for I know that by yourself you are unable to lift yourself to me. Child, do not run away from your Father; be willing to talk openly with your God of mercy who wants to speak words of pardon and lavish his graces on you. How dear your soul is to Me! I have inscribed your name upon My hand; you are engraved as a deep wound in My Heart.”
You should have seen the look on that man’s face when I read the last few sentences. He could not believe that Jesus would say to him, “How dear your soul is to Me!” He was probably thinking to himself, ‘Me? Jesus? This soul who has disappointed and hurt my own mom and dad, my children, my wife, my grandparents, and my friends by lying and stealing from them—such despicable soul is precious to Jesus?’ What kind of extravagant love does Jesus have for me? What kind of extravagant sacrifice did Jesus make for me?
In the few short hours I spent in that room hearing confessions, I sensed their anger, impatience, and pride. They knew they were sorry in some way, but some of them believed that they were justified in what they had done. Many admitted that they were serving time in prison a second time for committing the same crime that had landed them in prison the first time.
Don’t we also make mistakes over and over again? Aren’t these the kind of things that divide us--our pride, feelings of superiority, ethnicity? Aren’t these keeping us from washing each other’s feet? Jesus said, “for I know that by yourself you are unable to lift yourself to Me.” Jesus had to show us how to be humble and so at the Last Supper he took off his outer garments and wrapped a towel around his waist like a servant. Then he poured water on the disciples’ dirty feet and washed them. We too have to shed our pride, superiority, selfishness, and everything else that keeps us from serving others. Jesus was showing us how to love as He loved. Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. Jesus loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. That night of the Last Supper, Jesus reminded us again of His extravagant love and His extravagant sacrifice.
One of the men in the doctor’s room had his head down in tears and said to me, “Father, can you pray for me and my family right now? My wife is in jail at this moment too. Please pray with me right now that I can be a better model for my children and my wife.” Jesus calls us his brothers and sisters and he calls us his friends. So we share intimately in His life, but this also means that we must carry on His mission and follow His example by serving, by loving, our brothers and sisters.