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Oct 12, 2023 1131 Susan Skinner
Evangelize

My Awakening

Can a thought become a sin? It’s time to reflect.

As long back as I can remember, I had been a good Christian, going to Church regularly and getting involved in Church activities, but nobody could guess that I was simply going through the motions. In 2010 however, an incident shook me to the core and led me to hear the voice of God amidst the anguish. This revelation helped me begin my journey to becoming a true Christian.

Unforgettable Night

Veronica and I were not the best of friends; we hung out together because our boys brought us together. But we were friends who genuinely liked each other and mothers who loved our children. She was sweet, beautiful, and a genuinely kind person. My son was her son’s best friend.

On August 28, 2010, Veronica called me and asked if my son could spend the night at her house. Though I had allowed him to, dozens of times before, that night, for some reason, I was uneasy. I told her no, but that he could go over and play for the afternoon and that I would pick him up before dinner. Around 4 o’clock, I drove over to her house to pick him up. As I stood in Veronica’s kitchen area and chatted about our boys, she told me how each of them had a gift and what special children they were. She had taken them to the grocery store to buy their favorite ice cream. My son also wanted cereal, which she generously bought for him and gave me to take home for him. I thanked her and drove away.

The next morning, I woke up to the news that she had been murdered. Right there, where I had stood talking to her the evening before…Her soon-to-be ex-husband had hired a hitman to murder her because they were separated, and really who knows why else. I felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t stop crying.

In my agony, I lay on my bedroom floor crying, wailing really. A beautiful young mother, 39 years old, murdered, leaving behind her 8-year-old son motherless. And for what? I cried out to God in anguish and anger. How could You let this happen? Why Lord?

In the midst of my anguish, a thought came over me. And for the first time in my life, I recognized this thought as the voice of God. God said, “I don’t want this; people choose this.” I asked God, “What, what in the world can I do in this awful place?” He answered me, “Susan, good in the world starts with you.” I began to think. I thought about how I had seen Veronica and her husband in church together, and I wondered how a person who was plotting murder could even attend church. God answered me again.

He told me that her husband did not start out as a murderer but that his sin had grown in his heart, gone unchecked, and he had been led down a long dark path. I remembered the Bible verse, “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). That moment, this verse made sense to me. I had always thought, “How can a thought be a sin?” After Veronica’s murder, it all made sense to me. Sin starts in your heart and takes over once you act on it with your hands. And if we never take the time to examine our conscience or think about what is right and what is wrong, chances are, we can really go down a wrong path.

Resounding Voice

So Lord, “What can I do?” He told me that the only person I could control was myself—that I could choose to love and spread that love outward. For me, this meant examining my own conscience and trying to become a better person. Did I love my enemy? Or even my neighbor, for that matter? The answer, unfortunately, was a resounding NO. I was dismayed when I realized I had not been loving towards the people around me.

In the Catholic Church, we have the Sacrament of Confession, where we go to a priest and confess our sins. I had always disliked this Sacrament and dreaded going for it. But here, in this place, crying on the ground, I found it to be a gift. A gift I was actually grateful for. In telling my sins, I was able to encounter Christ. I had a confession like I had never had before. In this Sacrament, I received the grace that Jesus offers to us when we choose to ask for it. I took a good hard look at myself, and my selfishness started to burn away because of my encounter with God’s unconditional love at the confessional. The Sacrament makes me try to do better, and though I know that I am a sinner and will continue to have failures, I can always look to receiving His sanctifying grace and forgiveness no matter what. This helps me to spread His goodness forward. I don’t think you have to be a Catholic to understand this.

Veronica’s murder was not my fault, but I would definitely not let her die in vain; I would not let her life be snuffed out without letting others know the impact it had on me and that good could come out of the ashes of such awful circumstances. Thus, my journey toward being truly Christian began.

I thought of Veronica in the Bible. While Jesus suffered during His Passion, making His way to Golgotha, bloodied and beaten, He came across a woman also named Veronica. Veronica wiped the face of Jesus. A small act of kindness. This man, this God-man, was bloodied, beaten, tired, and in agony, yet this woman, Veronica, provided a brief respite. A few seconds where the sweat and blood were wiped away, and for a moment, however short, he felt love from this woman. It did not stop His Passion nor His suffering, but in a world that was mocking Him, scourging Him, that woman’s touch with the cloth must have felt glorious. So, He imprinted His image on her cloth.

The name “Veronica” means “True Image.” Jesus left Veronica the mark of His love. And so, because of my friend, Veronica, who also provided me with love and respite during a tough time in my life, I must spread love and kindness wherever I go. I cannot stop suffering, but I can offer that respite to those who are lost, poor, lonely, unwanted, or unloved. And so, for me, I will wipe the Face of Jesus for as long as His grace and mercy allow me to.

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Susan Skinner

Susan Skinner is a wife, mom, caregiver, and writer. Currently, she is the director of Adult Faith Formation and RCIA at Saint Philip Catholic Church in Franklin, TN.

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