By E.P. ROBLES
As a spiritual leader with a congregation of over 2,000 members, Father David Wedder had seen his life’s ambition come to bear fruit.
It was his sermons from the pulpit that gave the poor, lame, diseased and spiritually sick a beacon of light to guide them through the darkness during those difficult times.
More importantly, it gave followers hope that a higher power controls their personal destinies, and not the authority of others in positions of power.
To this extend his dream of being a servant of God had progressed splendidly and the donations by followers kept the church strong and on solid financial grounds.
During his time as a man of the cloth he’d realized the condition of the Nation could be gauged by what he called the, Collection Plate Index: tranquil periods brought small offerings, likewise, during times of national crisis or when economic hardship swept the country, his flock gathered gifts and donations and the collection plate over flowed.
It was clear evidence of the human condition and its need for repentance and salvation.
So, when the gentleman entered through the large wooden doors of his church at a quarter to midnight, Father Wedder played the part God had given him.
Offering an evening prayer when the stranger had come in from the cold November night, with a bitter snap of the early winter marching closely behind as the solid oak doors closed.
Finished with his benediction, Father Wedder stood up, catching an evanescent glimpse of the man, who hurriedly went into the confessional box.
The stranger was short, stocky and wore a long black overcoat with a knit cap tightly pulled over his head.
Father Wedder followed the man to the confessional booth and sat on the hard wooden bench as he had done so many times during the past 30 years.
After a brief prayer he slid open the panel that separated him from his confessor.
“What is it that burdens your heart, my son? Asked Father Wedder.
A groaning sound came from the confessional booth.
“If you have something to confess, do it now my son. Do not let it consume you.”
“Father, forgive me for I have sinned.” Said the voice.
“It is our Father in Heaven that forgives you my son, I am only an instrument of our Creator. Now, tell me what you have done that grieves you with such pain.”
“It is…,” the voice paused, moaning as a hurt animal.
“Father, it is a great sin. Something that will surely be the undoing of me!”
“Tell me of this sin so that I can pray for you.”
“Do you believe,” the voice asked, “That God sent his only Son to die for all of humanity?”
“Yes, it is written that God sent his only Son to die at Calvary so we might inherit everlasting life and salvation. Did you not learn this in catechism?”
“No. I am not Catholic,” the voice said. “I do not lay claim to any faith.” The voice no longer cried.
“Son, for the sake of your soul, tell me what you have done that causes you to have such anguish!”
“I…tonight. Killed a man.”
“You have greatly sinned. I offer you a way to redeem yourself in the eyes of our Father. You must seek out the authorities and turn yourself in. Worry not for the flesh but for your soul as it is everlasting. The law of man may send you to prison but after you die, it is the soul that continues.
“That is not possible, Father. I could never turn myself in.
I’d rather die than go to prison for the rest of my life!”
“Tell me what happened,” said the Father.
“I needed money.” Said the voice. “And I was looking for someone to stick up. Lots of things were going through my mind, you know; how to get money. I was going to hold up a grocery store and was about ready to do the job when I saw a man standing at a bus stop.
He was alone and I figured it to be a safer bet stealing from him then the store. So I hit him on the head with a crowbar I had hidden upon myself, within my long coat. I didn’t mean to hit him that hard, just a good thud on the head. To knock him out. I guess…adrenaline got to me and…”
Father Wedder remained silent, captivated by the man’s confession.
“…he hit the ground hard, and I bent down to reach for his wallet. His brain…I have never seen such human destruction. It was everywhere.
“Did you know this man,” asked the Father.
“No. Never seen him before. He just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. No one else saw us.”
“Then you did not call the authorities? Police? Ambulance?
“No. I was crazy. So much fear!” The voice quivered like a frightened child. “I have never killed anyone before!”
“My son. You know that I cannot say a word to anyone about this confession, it is up to you to give this matter to the authorities. You need to do it, and soon. For the love of God.”
“Do you really believe that God would forgive me for what I have done?”
“It is not for me to say for only God knows his judgment. But, I surely believe your soul is in great jeopardy and your salvation in great peril.”
The voice was quiet for several minutes, then continued.
“Do you really believe God gave his only Son for me?
“Yes. Why do you ask the same question, have you no faith in God?”
“I never thought about it.” Said the voice.
“God’s plan is something that we cannot fathom for it is beyond our comprehension.
Do not throw away His gift to you.”
“Thank you Father. I will give it some consideration.”
Father Wedder spoke in a deep baritone voice.
“I want you to say a prayer, you may remind silent in your offering if you wish.”
Father Wedder proceeded to pray for the poor soul behind the thin confessional booth’s walls. In all his years he had never heard such a confession. He prayed for the man.
Prayed for thanks that God had given him such a wonderful congregation and he prayed for the wonderful life. He also prayed for his wonderful son, born out of wed-lock to a woman 30 years ago. It was his private history. It was before his vows to serve God.
In all, he thanked and prayed to God that so graciously put in his life a wonderful church in which to bring together such a great gathering of wonderful people.
And Father Wedder prayed for quite some time before the strange removed himself from the confessional booth. To make sure that no one else had entered the confessional, he cleared his voice, and made an inquiry. He was again alone.
Sometimes they left objects of personal value behind. After confession. Things like watches, rings, or even earrings, as an offering to the church.
Father Wedder opened the door and peered inside the confessional booth.
A wallet had been left behind. With blood upon its leather.
Grabbing it off the worn wooden bench he went into his office and sat behind a large desk. He hoped the wallet.
Lately, Father Wedder had asked God to challenge his life, to give him a problem of considerable gravity. As a way for him to prove his unwavering faith.
But now, he realized it to have been a terribly wrong and foolish request.
The wallet fell from his hand, as his face turned ash white.
And Father Wedder screamed. When he said the small picture contained with the dead man’s wallet.
It was his only begotten son!
E.P. Robles (c) 1994