BY SEAN JEONG
Father Alex was holding his monthly vigil in the sanctuary when he noticed a presence enter the room. Turning around, he saw that it was a middle-aged man in a black overcoat and gray scarf. The man slowly walked into the confessional booth, as if bidding Father Alex to come.
Father Alex felt unsettled as he took his place in the booth, as if some sort of danger was present. Before Father Alex could say anything, the man began his impatient chatter.
“Bless me Father, for I have sinned. My confession was ages ago. Did you know Father, that a drunk driver in New York City hit a little girl today? Just a couple of minutes ago. It hasn’t even hit the news yet. Instantly killed her, he did. And you know, the little girl’s father is a pastor. And oh so tragic, this will destroy his faith in his God.”
The man continued before the shocked Father could say anything else.
“Oh and that’s not all. Did you know that a warlord in Congo held a public execution of eight children in front of their peers? Execution by firing squad, children all under thirteen years old, shot by child soldiers, just to ensure his iron grip on them.”
Father Alex finally managed to get a word out. “I’m afraid I don’t understand. What is this about?”
“Oh but this is confession, is it not? And this is just a mere glimpse of all that the world attributes as my doing, for just today! Oh my, but there’s one more that I must share with you! Can you believe some fool in London signed a contract with me for the love of a woman that he cannot keep? Now, that is something that rarely happens nowadays. Imagine how delighted I was.
“Ah, it’s all right Father. I do not actually expect any words of forgiveness from you. I just wanted a listening ear. You were, after all, praying that God would show you something different today, were you not?
“So allow me to ramble on a little bit more, would you? I’ve attended several graduations recently, both college and high school. Funny, isn’t it? But I do like ordinary human things every once in a while. I like to hear what sentimental yet totally unmemorable things the salutatorians and the valedictorians say to their classmates. So this valedictorian kid, he goes up to the podium, and all he says is ‘I hope you all remember: the essence of man’s existence is not subsistence but purpose.’
“And I thought, listen to this kid! Then something that came to my attention a while ago briefly came back to me. This girl of 25, just after finishing law school, decided that she would rather be poor and work for the cause of sex slaves in Manila than make $200,000 a year working for a firm in L.A. And you know – that, to her, gave her purpose. She chose purpose over subsistence. And an excellent choice she made, wouldn’t you say, Father? What’s it to you if you gain the world but lose your soul, eh? But still, I was thinking. She’s so passionate about this cause, to fight against this EVIL of sex slavery. And such evil it is, indeed. And yet, I wonder if she knows that she needs that evil that she despises so strongly? For without that evil, she’d be left directionless and empty.”
“That’s just ridiculous,” began Father Alex.
“Ah, but is it?” resumed the man, cutting off Father Alex’s objection. “Imagine, Father. That if there were no sex trafficking, then there would not be any reason to fight for social justice in those countries. If there were no civil wars and corrupt governments starving out their own citizens and their children, and if people laid down their greed and selfishness so that their neighbors were taken care of then there would be no need for those that devote themselves to the cause of helping the poor either. Imagine Father… every cause that people devote their lives to, and thus glorify God with, is there because of the presence of some evil. What would the world be like if tomorrow morning all the evils were gone?”
“It would be paradise. Heaven on earth,” replied Father Alex.
“Yes! For a week! But then it would be boring! It would be one holy, tedious church service! Can you imagine a world where being a lawyer or an engineer is just as noble as any other job? Can man suddenly accept that just living for a subsistence is now an acceptable purpose? Certainly, not everyone can or should become pastors and priests, no? It is absolutely undeniable that the essence of man’s life is not subsistence but purpose. But only the presence of evil can give man purpose. Is it not true?
“And so it shall be that even if I cease to exist tomorrow, humanity shall rise up to take my place, for man cannot exist without evil. Thus it shall be that until Christ returns once more and establishes His rule on earth, man shall depend on evil to give him purpose. And though it may be that indeed when He returns that all the eyes of the sinful men will be opened and they shall lay down the conflict that is at the core of their souls and cry out ‘Thou art just, O Lord!’ Yet until then, Man may not escape from the necessity that is evil.”
With a sudden tone of sadness, the man continued in a slower pace.
“Perhaps it was ordained from the beginning that man must suffer for as long as he exists in this world until the time when His mystery and glory shall be revealed. Perhaps it was ordained from the beginning that he would reach out and take the forbidden apple in order that he may truly exist. Perhaps it was ordained from the start that I must forever exist as the grim yet undeniable testament to God and His light. Could that be true?”
At this point, the man suddenly paused, seemingly still, as if he had suddenly realized that he was rambling on. A full minute passed by with nothing said between the two of them – a silence that seemed to last an eternity.
“Forgive me Father, I must have overstayed my welcome.” With that, the man suddenly got up and opened the door of the booth. Hurriedly, Father Alex stepped outside the booth as well to try to catch up to the man, but he had already vanished.
Standing still, Father Alex was deep in thought, debating and processing in his mind the fantastical dream he had just experienced. Still unsure and unable to calm the turmoil that was budding in his heart, he nonetheless returned to the altar. Getting on his knees before the cross, he once again resumed his prayers.