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Mar 10, 2020 108 0 Jemille West
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The Day I Met the Crucified and Risen Christ

Some of my earliest memories are of my Mum eagerly preparing us for Church events. She made sure we felt special when we received the sacraments. My dad became a Catholic when I was six, but for some reason I struggled to love him. Even though I loved Jesus very much, this troubled relationship with my dad made me question if God cared about me.

Although I loved to visit the chapel to pray, inspired by the sacred art that surrounded me, I was often in tears. I was frequently bullied because I was striving to live a good life, ardently hoping for the spiritual treasures awaiting those who loved God with all their heart.

Tuning into Worldly Happiness

In senior high school, I began to drift away from my faith. I no longer felt supported by my family so I became rebellious, like the older son in the Prodigal Son, fighting to win their love and approbation. My plan was to become a history lecturer at Macquarie University. However, as I got older, I began looking to the world’s acclaim to satisfy my desires. I craved love from boyfriends and spent a lot of time on Netflix, watching TV shows and playing computer games, but neglected my parents, foolishly thinking the world would make me completely content. I filled myself up with anything and everything in order to be loved but I was rejecting my family, who actually cared about me. I felt trapped.

On the first day of university orientation I was given some free “Walk with Jesus” thongs (what Americans call flip-flops) for signing up with a Christian group. Subsequently, I received a call from a girl belonging to the Baptist Church. She did not beat around the bush; she immediately asked, “What’s your relationship with Jesus?” That question prompted me to attend some Anglican and Protestant events, which led me back to belief.

The turning point of my life was when I received an offer to replace my sister in a job running a Catholic youth group. Since I needed the money, I did not think twice! Before taking over, I had to take a month-long retreat. Although I had already decided to join the Baptist Church, I wanted this job so I went to the retreat at a Benedictine monastery. Since I had not been taught any Catholic prayers in primary or high school, it was all new to me. I was really surprised to learn that Catholics could pray so much! The angelus and rosary fascinated me because I had been wondering why Mary was not even mentioned in the Baptist Church.

Until then I had only valued material things and relationships that failed to fill the emptiness in my heart.

A Tremendous Challenge

My next surprise was adoration. I did not understand what eucharistic adoration was so they had to explain—it is when we put the host consecrated at Mass in a monstrance (a golden object that looks like a sun) so we can adore Jesus in the blessed sacrament longer. I was not able to totally take it in. Although I had often received Holy Communion, I had not believed that the consecrated bread was actually Jesus. How could a piece of bread be Christ? Why are we worshipping a piece of bread?

When I was told I had to stay silent for an hour, I was staggered. For a person who cannot even stay quiet for five minutes it was a real struggle. My heart was racing and my feet tapping. I sat at the back, so I could get away quickly, but could not help noticing others who seemed to have no problem silently conversing with Jesus, as if they had known Him well for years. Even though we had adoration every night, they still seemed to have more to say. As time went on, I felt drawn to sit close to “the bread” because I wanted to experience the same intimacy with Jesus.

When the Walls Crumbled

My mind was full of conflicting thoughts and emotions about the sins of my past— stealing money from my parents, addiction to pornography, manipulating people for my own ends—I could not block these painful thoughts so the walls around my heart crumbled. I looked up at Christ on the cross while He gazed back at me. I felt like Mary standing there at the foot of the cross. As I observed His wounds, I could feel them and words came to me from Jesus, “I thirst.” “Maybe God has better plans than what I have,” I thought.

I wanted to offer Him something and absurd thoughts about cutting myself ran through my head. Bitter tears fell as regrets for all the sins of the previous five years overwhelmed me. I was meeting the crucified Christ and powerfully realizing that He died for me. Suddenly, someone broke the silence to announce that confession was available. My heart shrank, “No way… I am not going in there. It’s just a man in a box. That priest will judge me.” A tug of war was happening inside me; you cannot beat perfect love and somehow God pulled me right into the confessional.

When God Held a Party for Me!

I had my heart in my hands but no words. I was so nervous. My hands were wet and I was trembling. I poured out my heart, confessing everything, even my shameful addiction to pornography. As I waited with bated breath for the priest’s response, I felt like a prisoner waiting for a guilty verdict. Then his words shattered my emptiness and filled my heart. ”Jemille … YOU ARE LOVED.” Joyful tears ran down my face, because I knew they came straight from Jesus Himself. In that moment I perceived the crucified Christ and the risen Christ. I felt like the Prodigal Son coming home to my Father and being received with joy and celebration. Confession seemed like a bath where my sins were all washed away.

When I left the confessional, I immediately recognized, at last, that the Blessed Sacrament is Christ Himself. I knew He was real and that I was loved. Nothing else mattered. I have never turned back. Those words continued to fill me: YOU ARE LOVED. “As the deer yearns running streams, so I long for you my Lord“ (Psalm 42:1). I was the deer who had been yearning but I was not thirsty anymore.

Jemille West

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