July 22, 2016

Serra Club vocations essay

Priest shows ‘God’s unending love and mercy’ in confession

(Editor’s note: The following is the sixth in a series featuring the winners of the Indianapolis Serra Club’s 2016 John D. Kelley Vocations Essay Contest.)

By Mike Rushka (Special to The Criterion)

Mike RushkaI’ve noticed a considerable number of people have a notion that a recipe for God exists. They expect to check off a list of prayerful tasks, and then feel a “faith high” as their relationship with Christ falls perfectly into place.

Unfortunately, I often fall into this category of believers. In my pride, I forget about my sin and assume all I have to do is say a few prayers each day, forget about my morality, and I’m on my way to sainthood. I wish this simple “get faith quick” method was a reality, but this isn’t the case.

A couple weeks ago, one of my buddies explained to me the origin of the word “Israel” in the Old Testament. He described to me the patriarch Jacob’s wrestling match with one of God’s angels, and connected Jacob’s struggle with the divine to our own conflicts with grace.

My friend’s insight opened my eyes to the true nature of humanity’s relationship with God. Along with every being who has fallen from grace, I constantly wrestle with God. Just like any teenager who sometimes disobeys a parent, I occasionally become upset and frustrated with the Lord. Fortunately, God always fights back with his unbounded mercy.

Mercy didn’t seem to click in my head until I met Father Todd Riebe one warm, spring day last year. I was on my way home to the south side of Indianapolis after a volleyball tournament in Muncie.

Gazing out the car window, watching rows of corn sprouts fly by, my mind began to wander through my relationship with God. Suddenly, I realized I hadn’t been to the sacrament of reconciliation in about six months.

Bored after a long day at my tournament, I decided to look up confession times for parishes on the way home. St. Mark the Evangelist happened to offer confession at about the same time I would be getting back to the south side. I ended up arriving at St. Mark with plenty of time to spare.

I’m usually not nervous before going to reconciliation, but this day was different. Here I was, strolling into an unfamiliar parish in a sweaty volleyball warmup suit. However, my anxiety faded the moment I walked into the confessional and heard Father Todd’s soothing, “Welcome! Welcome!” as I sat down with him.

At first, I was taken aback by his unique enthusiasm for this sacrament, but as he rambled for no less than 10 minutes on God’s unending love and mercy I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. I finally realized God never turns his back on us, no matter how awful we think our sins are.

A year later, I still meet with Father Todd regularly for reconciliation. In the midst of my stressful teenage life, I take solace in Father Todd’s gentle reminders of God’s overflowing mercy in my life. To me, Christ called Father Todd not only to become a priest but also a wrestler, fighting to let God’s mercy be known to every sinner.

(Mike and his parents, John and Karen Rushka, are members of St. Barnabas Parish in Indianapolis. He completed the 12th grade at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis last spring, and is the 12th-grade division winner in the Indianapolis Serra Club’s 2016 John D. Kelley Vocations Essay Contest.)

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