Eight years ago, in February of 2005, I went for my first “Come and See” Weekend. There was no natural desire for me to actually go for the weekend…I had no idea that the weekend was happening. I was far removed from Toronto and happy in my world at Waterloo studying Engineering and enjoying life. Then, I received a call from a High School friend: “My priest asked me to go for a Come and See Weekend at St. Augustine’s Seminary…I don’t want to go alone…want to come with me?” My happy little world in Waterloo just got burst. I felt I shouldn’t say ‘no’…something within me said, “Go”…and I went. Eight years later, I am an ordained deacon for the Archdiocese of Toronto, to be ordained to the priesthood in May. My friend, well, he is engaged to be married in May.
The Come and See weekend was the beginning of an awesome journey with Jesus. First, to experience Him in the silence of my heart, and then to listen to Him with the help of my Spiritual Director. In this intimate exchange I learned more and more, experienced more and more, that He loves me particularly and He cares for me uniquely. All He desires for me is to be happy and to be with Him for in this world and the next.
Before the Come and See weekend, Jesus was calling out to me. He was yelling at times for me and calling me by name; yet, I was unable to respond. I was too caught up in myself and in my own little world in Waterloo. I thought I was happy. I thought I was going to be a good engineer, find a wife, settle down and have lots of children. But God, after He burst through my bubble and during the weekend, gave me the grace to encounter Him in adoration and He asked a simple question: “Where are you? I have been looking for you…I have been calling out to you.”
My initial reaction to God was very similar to Simon Peter’s response after the miracle of the catch of Fish: “Lord, get away from me, for I am a sinful man.” Our personal sinfulness can either become an obstacle or a way in which we can come to experience the love of God in our lives. It is an obstacle when we keep on focusing on our sins. Those things that we do over and over again, that we feel that we have no control over. But all have fallen short of the glory of God and all of us are called here and now to turn away from sin, to turn our eyes to the God who loves us. He is here present with us in the Word and in Sacrament. His loving mercy is to be encountered in the sacrament of confession.
The response of Jesus to Peter gives all of us hope: “Be not afraid.” To be healed in the soul might cause some suffering. It might be humiliating to drag up all of those sinful actions that we have done. But remember, this is the same God who sent His only begotten Son into the world not to condemn the world but to save the world. He created us and He sustains us in his love. His love is healing. Just look to the Man that hangs on the cross for you and for me.
It is only when we have acknowledged our sinfulness, and brought it to God in the sacrament of confession that we are truly set free. True freedom is in the love of Christ that enables us to receive the love of God in our hearts. It is only when we receive this love can we respond in love with a “Yes” to God in all our decisions and live it in all our actions.