I only remember going to Confession once during my four years in college. Confession was a sacrament that I just didn’t think about much (we’ll get into that at a later date), but it became a last resort at this certain moment during my senior year. I hadn’t even done anything particularly terrible: I was just feeling absolutely toxic because of a relationship with a coworker.
I was, technically, her superior. She wanted to move up in the ranks and get more responsibility but wasn’t willing to put forth the effort needed to get there. I didn’t have the patience for her or for her attitude, so I gave her a minimal amount of work to do, handled the rest of the work myself and complained endlessly about her whenever I had the chance. Not only was this making my time at work unbearable, the toxicity was creeping into my daily and spiritual life. It began to eat away at me…so much so that I needed to get to a Priest and make my first Confession since high school.
You know what my penance was? I was instructed to pray for her – the absolute last thing I wanted to do
I am not keen on praying for people I don’t like. I don’t pray enough as it is, and so it seems anathema to me to spend the precious little time I have with God to ask for Him to pour out His abundant blessings on someone who has done anything but bless me. I tend to spend my time praying for people I love.
But, I guess even the hypocrites do that.
Nonetheless, I dutifully performed my penance, and – miraculously – our relationship got better! By the end of the quarter, I actually got to the point where I even enjoyed her. I still find it rather unbelievable. I look back at that experience, and I am in awe of the power of prayer.
What the Priest knew and I didn’t was that I was going to receive blessings as I prayed for God to bless my coworker. I can’t say if my prayers changed anything in her, but I can definitely say that they changed something in me.
While I’m unable explain this change myself, I think the Catechism hits on what happened: “From the Sermon on the Mount onwards, Jesus insists on conversion of heart: reconciliation with one’s brother before presenting an offering on the altar, love of enemies, and prayer for persecutors, prayer to the Father in secret, not heaping up empty phrases, prayerful forgiveness from the depths of the heart, purity of heart, and seeking the Kingdom before all else.” (CCC 2608)
My heart changed, plain and simple. What a blessing!
As we get older, we become more set in our ways and more set in our tastes – we know what we like and what we don’t like. As we continue to meet, work and play with more and more people, it becomes increasingly likely that we won’t necessarily like all of them.
Instead of praying about those people (“Lord, help me to endure this unendurable person!”), let’s pray for them. “Lord, please bless this person abundantly.”
You might be surprised by who actually receives the blessing.