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Moments of Grace: Reconciling with God

August 28, 2013 by  
Filed under Liz Estler, Penance/Confession, Spiritual Direction

While working as a Chaplain Associate a few years ago, I visited “Joe” in his hospital room. He stopped drinking about ten days before but was getting very sick. “Drinking is stupid,” Reconciling with Godhe said, “I never used to drink. One day I had a little bit, and then a little more and then I was drinking a lot, every day.  Now, they’re doing tests and something might be wrong with my pancreas. I have a wife and little girl. I’m not going to drink anymore because of my little girl. I want to see her grow up. I don’t want her to know me like this. I want her to have a good example. I could have died and she would have grown up without a father. A child needs a father. This world is full of bad examples. Kids smoking and drinking and girls selling their bodies for $10 on the street; I don’t want that for my little girl.”

“So, it’s good you stopped drinking,” I said.

“I stopped but then I felt sick. If I hadn’t come in, I could have died. But, God saved me. God is with me. If not for God, I wouldn’t have stopped and I could be dead. God is everything. I don’t know how people who don’t have God do it. God says to be patient. I’m sad I wasted so much time and health on drinking. I just want to get out of here and have a good life.” Up until now, his words were similar to many other patients who had “stopped” drinking. Then, he added something very interesting, “The other night, I was seeing two people, one was a girlfriend that was in love with me, the other a friend. They got close to me saying, ‘Come with us.’ They scratched my face and shouted at me. It felt like someone was burning up my legs. After that, a pastor came in. He extended his hand and said, ‘In the name of God, get out!’ And, they left. It was Satan. They were trying to win me for Satan. Ever since then, everything changed. Things are calm. God saved me.”

I told him that “these are like temptations that sometimes come when people are dying. When we pray the Our Father, the last part is about this–lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. It applies to deliverance from all temptation and especially temptations that come when we are dying.”

“Yes, that’s it exactly. And, if you do something bad, God doesn’t reject you. He says–come to me and he enfolds you and protects you.”

It was a very blessed visit for both of us. As Chaplain Associate, I visited Joe as God's instrument, putting my trust in His power to bring good out of any situation. I discovered Joe was also God’s instrument for me. When Joe described his experiences, he witnessed to God’s goodness, resolving to abstain from drinking and expressing his trust in the Lord's forgiveness and mercy, all of which reminded me of sacramental confession. I got goose bumps learning of his encounter with demons and felt humbled to hear something I'd only read about, something which underscored the very real presence of evil in the world. Psalm 119:113: “Depart from me, you wicked, that I may observe the commands of my God,” and, of course, Psalm 23:4: “Even when I walk through a dark valley, I fear no harm for you are at my side” came to mind. All this clearly reflected Jesus’ teaching on repentance and the forgiveness of sins (cf Lk 15:7 and Ps 51:19b). The Catechism of the Catholic Church (para. 1451) says, “Among the penitent’s acts contrition occupies first place.” Joe had taken the first step toward reconciliation. When we are drawing nearer to God, it's important to remember that the next step to pardon and peace, and the absolution of our sins which returns us to full communion with the Body of Christ, is to be found in the Sacrament of Penance. Let us not fail to approach God through this graced instrument of His love and mercy.


Art for this post on reconciling with God: Beichte aus einer Serie der sieben Sakramente: hergestellt im Auftrag von Padre Ghedini (Confession from a series of seven sacraments: made on behalf of Padre Ghedini), Pietro Antonio Novelli, 1779, PD-US author's life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.

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About Liz Estler

Editor, Liz holds a Master of Arts in Ministry Degree (St. John's Seminary, Brighton, Massachusetts), Liturgy Certificate (Boston Archdiocese), and a BS degree in Biology and Spanish (Nebraska Wesleyan University - Lincoln). She has served as hospital chaplain associate, sacristan, translator and in other parish ministries. She was a regular columnist for a military newspaper in Europe and has been published in a professional journal. She once waded in the Trevi Fountain!

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  • Beautiful!

    • LizEst

      Thanks Elena…and God bless you!

  • Jeanette

    Thank you for sharing this with us Liz. It certainly was a moment of grace both for you and “Joe.” May God continue to bless you.

    • LizEst

      Thank you, Jeanette…and may God continue to bless you, too!

  • HerHeartbeat

    Liz, I loved your post. It was a reminder of the very real presence of evil in the world and of God’s enormous love for us and that He provides so many ‘things’/people and ,as Catholics, the blessings of the sacraments which help us deal with it.
    God bless you for all you do.

    • LizEst

      Yes, the sacraments are tremendous fountains of grace for us. And, they are there for us to make use of…if only more would!

  • Ah, that moment of Grace when meeting Truth face to face. Beautiful, Liz!

    • LizEst

      Thanks Donna Sue!

  • JKA

    This is the second time in one week I’ve heard such
    a story. My friend’s sister, a
    registered nurse at a hospital, was in a female patient’s room. The patient asked who the man laughing at her
    in the corner of the room was. The RN told
    her there was no one else in the room, but felt inspired to offer to pray with
    the patient. The patient said she didn’t believe in any of that stuff and declined.
    The patient then yelled that her feet and legs were on fire, and promptly passed
    away. Even though I trust my friend and
    her family, I wondered whether this was an entirely accurate account of the
    events. But the similarity between my
    friend’s story and “Joe’s” experience is uncanny.

    • LizEst

      Wow! Gives me goosebumps…what a tremendous correlation between “the man laughing in the corner” and the feet and legs on fire and her subsequent death. I think I would feel like taking a bath with holy water after that!

  • ThirstforTruth

    Which leaves one to wonder about our separated brethren….who do not have
    access to the sacraments. Surely they are not damned or less likely to have
    God’s graces working in them against evil, especially at the moment of death.
    Or are they? Are we to believe this poor soul in JKA’s was beginning to burn
    in hell? These stories give me more than the “willies” ….I can only think of
    this little prayer i was taught as a child and have said frequently still to this
    day:”.. All thro’ life and at its closing, Jesus, keep me close to thee”! Simple
    words but oh, the comfort they bring to those who repeat them often.

    • LizEst

      God, who knows all and is most merciful, takes everything into account. I’m not sure what to make of the person in JKA’s case. Nevertheless, the similarities it bears to my experience with “Joe,” who told of the calm He experienced after an “intervention,” gives me pause. We do not know what this woman’s life was like. We do know, when offered prayer, the patient said she didn’t believe and declined. Oftentimes, when people don’t believe, they have suffered great evil in their lives and they do not understand how a good God can permit such. We know that the Lord’s ways are not our ways; they greatly supersede ours. I’m sure it was not for nothing that the Lord permitted us to know of these things. One thing the Lord does not like is lukewarmness. I don’t know about you, but I’m inspired to amend my life even more. I do hope that JKA’s friend’s sister prayed silently for the patient nevertheless. Sometimes, we have to be Moses for unbelievers and stand in the breach before God.

      • When I pray my Rosary or Chaplet I offer it for those who are dying and in most need of Christ’s mercy. But there are many times I forget to mention this intention. Reading these stories reminds me just how important praying for those nearing death really is!

      • JKA

        On the other hand I have a positive story – I once was inspired by an insistent interior voice to pray a chaplet of divine mercy for the mother of an acquaintance. I had never met the woman, wasn’t fond of the acquaintance, had no reason to believe any death was imminent, and the family is Jewish. So I concluded my imagination was running wild. Later I did pray the chaplet “just in case.” I forgot about it until two days later when I received news that the woman had indeed died the very night I was inspired to pray the chaplet. See how God uses his faithful to help each other! I have no doubt that whatever the circumstances, my acquaintance’s mother received mercy.

        • LizEst

          Beautiful! This is what the communion of saints is all about.

  • ThirstforTruth

    Liz…thanks so much for responding to my comment. I especially am drawn to
    your words “sometimes we have to be Moses to the unbelievers, and stand in
    the breach before God” and will spend some time with them today. If you would
    have the time to expand a bit upon this, it would be appreciated. Thanks and God bless.

    • LizEst

      Yes, sometimes we have to be Moses for the unbelievers! We have to plead to God for them, even though their sins would justly condemn them. Moses did this for his people after his people rejected God and built a golden calf. He acknowledged their sins but plead for mercy from God, reminding God of His mercy: “He would have decreed their destruction, had not Moses, the chosen leader, Withstood him in the breach to turn back his destroying anger” (Psalm 106:23). Abraham, as well, had previously done this when he asked that the people of Sodom to be spared if 50 people were innocent, then “five less than 50,” then 40, then 30, then 20 and finally ten.

      This is a work of great intercession, when we pray for someone who, it seems, has never believed in God or who might justly deserve condemnation (though only God can read their hearts and knows the circumstances of their lives, and we are not to judge), etc, especially when they are about to die. We can plead for the Lord’s mercy for them. We can “remind” Him of His mercy (though technically God doesn’t need a reminder). We can remind the Lord that “their good deeds go before them” (Rev 14:13d). We can list their good deeds before the Lord.

      The ultimate in intercession is what Christ did for us in His passion, death and resurrection. He Himself stood in the breach of hell and everlasting death before the Father. He Himself took our sins upon Himself and exchanged His death for our own.

  • Thank you, Liz..An uplifting Post which reminds us all that the centrality of our Salvation is the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And for our separated brethren who do not have the Gift of this Sacrament – and even those who have never heard of Jesus, God in His merciful Divine Ways reaches them. The Teachings of the Catholic Church tell us so.

  • ace

    Phillip Keller, a Protestant inspirational writer, in his book, “A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23” reminds us that in the passage “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” that the valleys, although they have dangers (predators, snow, hail, and flood potential), are really the gentlest way to get up and down from the heights (where the summer feeding pasture or table is). Additionally, the valleys contain the most watering holes and forage to feed on. In reflecting on reconciliation, I am also reminded of the words given to the prophet Jeremiah: “… I will not keep my anger forever. Only admit your guilt: how you have rebelled against the Lord, your God… Return rebellious children….I will appoint for you shepherds after my own heart, who will shepherd you wisely and prudently.” Jer 3: 11-15. Also, we are told to “Be circumcised for the Lord, remove the foreskins of your hearts.” Jer 4:4. And, finally, (when the Israelites are in captivity in Babylon, but mutatis mutandis, when we have been in captivity from sin and might be forgiven but still feeling the temporal self-inflicted effects of our sins), “you who have escaped the sword, go, do not stand idle; Remember the Lord…” Jer 51:50. From all this, I get that God comes to us not only when we turn to Him from our sins, but also in our struggles, challenges and trials. There are real temporal and spiritual battles, but God is with us both directly and through his ministers and other Christians. He is in life’s valleys and will feed and water us in His Sacraments if we but turn to Him.

    • LizEst

      Beautiful! Thank you ace! God bless you now and always!

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