I was struck by spiritual lightning a long time ago.
I was young. I was in grade three, I think.
It was a hot day. I couldn’t find friends to play with during lunch. And I was bored.
I knew lunchtime mass would start soon at my school run by nuns. I knew it would be cool inside the chapel. Sheltered from the sunshine by thick stone walls that were always cool to the touch.
I went to mass. There were two others there. I sat at the back. I expected nothing except perhaps a nap.
But when the priest spoke, my little word turned upside down.
He spoke about Jesus’ unfair trial. How he was humiliated and flogged. He spoke about the moment when the cross was too much to bear. Someone else had to step in to help Jesus. Help him to his inevitable death.
I heard about that moment when nails pierced his hands. And his plea to God to forgive these people for they didn’t know what they were doing.
The priest looked at us and said that was what Jesus did for us. That was how he died for us. The priest also asked one question. Will we now pick up our cross and follow Jesus?
I knelt there at the pews. And I remember my young self saying, yes.
Yes, I will carry my cross and follow this Jesus who died for me. Yes, I would give my life to follow him, who loved me so much he endured rejection, humiliation, injustice and death to save me.
And a thousand million thunderbolts hit me. I’ll never forget it. I felt this energy inside me, a love that was as fierce and bright as the sun. It felt like I swallowed a supernova.
I wanted to cry. I wanted to shout. I wanted to go out there and start righting all wrongs, caring for the frail, sitting with outcasts. I wanted to be a new Agnes devoted to loving others, because I was loved by the creator of the universe.
I had no idea what had happened. No one told me what had just transpired. I had made a deal with God and while I didn’t know it then, he was not going to let me go.
I remember being so thirsty for God. I didn’t want to wait until Sunday to hear what God had to say about living to please him. They told me the bible had Jesus’ words in it. So I read the Good News Bible. Like a rebel, I didn’t wait for a priest teach it to me.
I remember reading the parable of the sower and his seeds. It was in the gospel of Matthew. Chapter 13, if you want to look it up.
I prayed with a heart innocent and young that I would be made of good soil. That God would reap from me a crop a hundred times what was sown.
I didn’t know I would grow up to turn my back on God.
If you saw me during my time at university, I would have said I was a postmodern Buddhist trapped in a Catholic body.
I pitied people who said they’d found Jesus. Their intellectual life was over as far as I was concerned. They were unthinking sheep. Obeying rules until they died.
You’d think that would have been the end of it.
But it wasn’t.
I found out that God doesn’t give up on people.