Bishop David Zubik met an "angel of mercy" at St. Paul Cathedral

Recently at St. Paul Cathedral, I went to my favorite “go to” spot in our mother church, as I like to do before I lead public prayer there. When I celebrate Mass or lead any liturgical gathering, I need to spend some quiet time with Jesus directly beforehand.

The pew I go to in the cathedral is located in sight of the tabernacle, about a dozen pews back from the altar where the sacramental presence of Jesus is reposed.

On this particular occasion, as I prayed over my upcoming homily, I suddenly “felt” a presence next to the pew. My eyes were closed, but I could feel someone next to me who wasn’t there when I first sat down.

When I looked up, a woman stood looking down at me. She said, rather emphatically, that she needed to speak with me, and then shared that she had said some mean-spirited things about me to a number of people.

She apologized.

I was so moved.

Aching with regret

Since I was unaware of her prior words or deeds, I was taken more by her humility and the contrition expressed than by what she had previously said about me. I wanted her to know how inspired I was by her courage. I told her so. I forgave her.

The “icing on the cake” came with her final question. “Was it all right,” she asked, “if I give you a hug?” Her request was especially poignant. She was my “angel of mercy” that day. Yet she was unaware of how God was using her to make an impact on me.

Before she approached me at the pew, I was praying over a hurt deep within my soul. I think you know what that feels like — a wound that aches with regret.

Just that day, I had been confronted with the hurt I had caused to a couple of important people in my personal life. They both let me know that I had offended them by my “absence.” Because I get caught up in my day-to-day responsibilities, I hadn’t been there enough for either of them. I hadn’t taken the time to call them. I hadn’t told them recently how much they mean to me. I simply wasn’t there for them. And they let me know with a “chill” that hit where it hurts — in the pit of my stomach.

My visitor broke into my prayer at just the right moment. She was truly an “angel of mercy,” sent to remind me how much more I need to be a man of the heart. The hug she gave me, and what prompted her to do so, showed me exactly what I needed to give to those two folks whom I hurt by my “absence.”

A special call

During this beautiful time of Lent, we are reminded of Jesus’ mercy upon us. Whether we reflectively look at him on the crucifix — or when we hear a Gospel story on his mercy — or when we meditate on the Stations of the Cross — or when someone surprises us with an apology sealed with a hug — we must connect the dots to the divine mercy of Jesus.

The gift of mercy you and I receive from Jesus — a gift he often offers us through others — is a gift you and I are called to share with others. We have a special call to offer that gift of mercy to those whom we may have hurt, knowingly or unknowingly.

Although I was taught that lesson from my parents at home, in school, in homilies, in seminary and in my study of Scripture, I learned it anew from an “angel of mercy” at a pew in the cathedral.

Could someone in your life be teaching the same lesson?

Could someone in your life need your apology and “amends?”

Jesus calls. Jesus calls us through “angels of mercy.” Jesus calls us to be the same, too!