Recently, a retreat I had been attending included the opportunity for confession on Saturday evening. There were four priests, one of whom had been ordained 45 days earlier. It was into the hands of this latter priest that I fell.
The confession I brought to him is one I should have taken to my parish priest. However, both he and I had been out of town for two months. The confession I was bringing was weighty, included circumstances well beyond my control, and had serious implications for the future. This, I thought, would be a challenge for a new priest, and, as I spoke, I could see in his eyes a reflection of the overwhelming nature of what I was bringing to him. I began to feel sorry for bringing it, when suddenly his demeanor changed. So did mine. We were not alone.
I remember being frustrated at my first confession because the priest had limited English and was partially deaf. Certain that he had not understood much of what I had said, I complained to God, “He wasn’t listening.” Then, I heard so distinctly as to never again question the sacrament of confession, “I listen.”
So, here I sat with this new priest. I had presented my confession and the reality that lay behind it, and now we were not alone. We were so not alone that I felt like I was talking with God Himself. Maybe I was. If I had had any lingering doubt bout God being present through the priest in the sacrament of confession (I did not -- not after the "I listen" locution), this experience would have extirpated any root of disbelief.
The priest did not give me a penance. He gave ma task. Now, that's exactly what God would do! The task pulled me back onto the path I needed to be on. I guess deep down, no matter how I try to become a Mary, I remain a Martha. The priest did not know that, but God did.