Have you ever been to confession with Padre Pio? I think I have.
Someone asked me to pray a novena to Padre Pio for an intention. I love novenas. Not everyone does. But I love them. As long as I had him on the phone for that intention, I asked him about a few other things. One of the things I asked him was what he would say to me if he were my confessor.
Padre Pio was famous for spending hours in the confessional. People came from miles around to experience the sacrament with him. He didn’t mince words in confession. If he didn’t think you were really sorry, he kicked you out. If you were truly repentant, he had a gift to know why you were sinning, and he would bring you right to the root of the problem. If you needed encouragement or solace, he gave it. Padre Pio did the work of God, setting people free in the confessional.
So, I asked him, “What would you say to me? Would you yell at me? Would you encourage me? What do I need to hear?”
I was pretty eager to go to confession the next time I was due. I finished my list of sins (which I’m not telling you), and the priest said, “Do you think God is always out to bust you? I think you don’t believe enough in His mercy.”
Now, I know perfectly well that God is merciful. But I realized I actually don’t know that God is merciful. Do you know what I mean? It’s one thing to say it, but there are some places of the heart that don’t know it yet. There are times I still feel guilty for making mistakes. There are past sins I find myself going over in my mind, even though the priest has clearly transmitted the absolution and it’s over. Do you ever feel that way?
The priest asked me what penance I wanted. How do you answer that? I could say, “What’s your heaviest penance? I’m a sinner.” But I said, “I don’t know…should I read something in the bible?” He gave me to read John 8, the story of the woman caught in adultery. I was to meditate on God’s mercy.
Padre Pio must have come to do the penance with me because I had a deep encounter with God as I read the story. The woman was dragged out, caught in the very act of adultery. And I imagined myself being pulled out of my home by every person I had ever sinned against or sinned with. They were angry and they wanted me dead. They pulled me through the street, calling me names and hurting me. I felt such heavy shame as I was publicly outed for my sins.
They wanted to stone me and I agreed. I could have thrown the first stone at myself, I was so despondent. But we didn’t stop. We kept going. We were going to see Jesus.
On this point, I was genuinely surprised. I mean, obviously, I know that Jesus is the judge. But actually, I didn’t realize that He was the judge. Do you know what I mean? I realized, in this place of shame, I had already judged myself as guilty. I let the group judge me as guilty. But I’m not the judge. And people who accuse me aren’t the judge. Jesus has the final say. Do all of the places of your heart know that?
We got to Jesus and I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen. But He said something I didn’t expect at all. He said, “This one is precious to me. You can’t have her.” And everyone had to leave.
Precious. He loves me. He wants me.
What He did not say was, “Actually, she isn’t guilty.” My guilt was not in question. He merely said He wasn’t calling me out on it. He wanted me anyway. He was wiping out that debt so He could have me. He thirsted for my soul and His thirst was going to be quenched.
It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about them. It was about Him.
Then I thought about how Jesus was sent into the streets. The people called Him names. They hurt Him. They called Him guilty. And He wasn’t.
But they called for His blood. And He was silent, like a lamb before the shearers.
He said from the cross, “I thirst.” And though on earth, He didn’t drink, He drank of my soul. His thirst was quenched. He bought me and He will have me. It’s not about me. It’s about Him.
What would Padre Pio say to you if you were in his confessional? Would he kick you out as not fully repentant? Would he point you to the root of your problem? Would he encourage and console you? From Heaven and through a fellow priest, he brought me closer to Jesus in that amazing sacrament.