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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Fr Evaristo Sada, LC, on Sharing God’s Mercy
Part 5 in a series on life as a priest.

Evaristo Sada, LC, with Eucharist
Fr Evaristo Sada, LC

Part 5 in a series on priestly experiences and insights, published on Thursdays in the Year for Priests.

September 17, 2009. As a bridge between God and man, and a man chosen from among men, the priest learns more about human nature and divine nature every day. Painful or joyful, these personal lessons gradually form a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the world, God, and oneself.

For Fr Evaristo Sada, LC, the priesthood is, more than anything, an ongoing discovery of the merciful heart of Christ.  Sometimes those moments of discovery take place in the intimate silence of heart-to-heart prayer in front of the Eucharist. And sometimes they take place on missions, on a plane, in the confessional… or in a hospital room.

The silent prayer

He was in Mexico City when his sister called him with an urgent request to come see her daughter, who was gravely ill in the hospital. As soon as he arrived, a nurse from his niece’s intensive care unit asked him to make a quick stop to see an elderly woman who was on the verge of death.

A sad sight awaited him at the door of her room. The old lady’s face was completely purple: she had fallen down the stairs and had three fractures in her cranium. She was also unconscious.

“Mamá, wake up!  Mamá, wake up!” cried her son, a grown man. He was on the edge of desperation, blinded by grief. His mother lay motionless in the bed.

When the son saw a priest standing in the doorway, he was livid.

“Who called you?” he demanded. Fr Evaristo tried to explain.

“Get out of here!” he shouted. “Just get out!”

Fr Evaristo stayed by the door and asked him, “Please let me in just for a moment.”

“No!” said the man.

Twice more he asked for permission to enter. Finally, the man grudgingly conceded him a few moments.

Fr Evaristo drew close to the bedside. The woman’s eyes were shut with no signs of consciousness. He took her hand.

“I am a priest,” he said. “I have come to ask you if you would like to receive the sacraments.”

At that moment, the woman cracked opened her eyes and nodded her head. Fr Evaristo was able to administer the sacrament of confession and a few moments later she died.

Somewhere deep inside, that woman’s heart and soul had reached out for her Savior in a silent prayer that only He heard. And the merciful heart of Christ had answered, bringing a priest to her door.

Human nature and divine nature

For a priest, the sacrament of reconciliation is also a privileged moment to see how God’s charity surpasses our notions of human justice.

“Before so much misery, and even at times cruelty, our natural human reaction could be to respond sharply,” said Fr Evaristo.

“But then you realize that Christ the Good Shepherd takes possession of your priestly heart, making it a compassionate, patient, and humble vessel of Jesus’ love. And you find yourself telling the penitent with your attitude and words that there is nothing they can ever do to make Jesus love them less. It’s like Jesus with the adulterous woman,” he said.

For Fr Evaristo, these are moments when he finds himself touching two realities: one is the weakness of human nature. The other is the beauty and greatness of the merciful heart of Christ.

And that heart of Christ, shining out above the inconstancy, pettiness, and betrayals of human nature, is what matters most.

A child’s first love affair

Discovering Christ’s heart is a process that grows with time. A child’s first experience of God’s love is very different from the experience of a grown man. But that first experience is a seed of what is to come.

For Fr Evaristo, it all began when he was a small child coming to church with his mother. He was full of curiosity about what lay inside that special golden box that only the priest could open.

“When the priest opened the tabernacle, he did it quickly and you couldn’t see what was inside because of the curtain that covered the door. He only put his hand in and took it out, but I could never see the inside. I asked my mom about what was inside and if she could bring me closer to see. She told me that if God allowed it, one day I would be able to see inside.”

He was only 6 at the time.

“That was the beginning of my love for Christ in the Eucharist,” he said.

Today, he still goes back to the tabernacle to talk to the Friend hidden inside. Some days he brings a heart weighed down with sorrow. And somehow, those are the best times.

“Now, some of the most special moments in my life are when God allows me to suffer
ordination day Evaristo Sada
Fr Evaristo Sada on the day of his priestly ordination at the hands of Pope John Paul II.
and I go to be with him. When I feel pain, loneliness, humiliation, confusion… I go to Jesus in the Eucharist. Sometimes I lean my head on the tabernacle. Sometimes I open it and contemplate him. And there I am, taking time to be with my best Friend.”

In difficult times

As anyone might guess, the past few months have been difficult ones for the Legion of Christ. And as the General Secretary for the Legion, Fr Evaristo has experienced that suffering alongside everyone else.

In the midst of the storm, that merciful heart of Christ continues to be a place of refuge and perspective.

“In these months in which God has allowed so much suffering, He has not left me alone. He has been faithful, and I have experienced his love in an overwhelming way,” he said. “I feel that I am standing on solid rock, on the solid rock of God’s love, who is the one who called me and consecrated me.”

Although the winds and waters are running high, he has confidence that the Legion will make it through the storm.

“I see the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi as a boat that God built for me, and in which he invited me to set out into the deep and bring many people to heaven. It can go through stormy times, but it is secure because the boat is the very hands of the God the Father, and Jesus is on board with us, although sometimes he seems to be sleeping,” he said.

Living for a Person

Confidence in Christ is a trust placed in a Person, not in a formula or some abstract force. This is a message that every Christian is called to share—that Jesus is alive and aware of what happens to us, that he has a plan for our lives, and that he is not really napping on the job. Most of all, it means believing that this Person, who knows us inside and out, is merciful and good.

For Fr Evaristo, sharing this message is what matters most in his priesthood. And opportunities to share that message are not lacking. Plane rides, as many priests can attest, are excellent moments for sharing the good news with a captive audience. (In some cases, the captive audience is the priest.)

On one such trip, Fr Evaristo sat down in his seat, looking forward to some quiet time to pray his breviary. The man next to him looked over with interest.

“I’m a thinker,” he said. “Want to hear my philosophy about life?”

Fr Evaristo put his breviary away.

For the next hour or so, the two men shared two completely different worldviews: one believed that the power behind the universe was a nameless energy that created all things, including human freedom. The other believed that the power behind the universe was a personal God who created all things “like an ocean of love that overflowed into life,” and who loved mankind as his own children.

“Do you talk to the energy?” asked Fr Evaristo.

“No. You see, the energy deserves respect,” answered the man.

Fr Evaristo explained that what the other man called “energy,” he called “Father.” When we know that our Father is always with us at our side, full of mercy and love, and that he sent his Son into the world to walk with us, to listen to us, and to help us in our daily trials, then life acquires a very different dimension. It becomes personal. There is a bond of love at the heart of everything, making our lives deeply meaningful, even in the midst of sufferings.

After their conversation, the man looked over at him and said, “Father, I’m interested in your perspective.” A door had been opened that day.

The key to happiness

For a priest, these small victories of God´s grace are one of the greatest joys in the mission. Conversions take time, and sometimes many pieces have to fall into place to give birth to a new life of faith, but being part of that process is a great privilege. Opening a soul to see the love and mercy of God is at the very heart of the mission; in some way, it’s as if the fruits of Christ’s sacrifice spring to life in the present time.

Sometimes, those fruits are visible; mostly, they are not. But when one’s eyes are set on the merciful heart of Christ, there is a deep confidence that he will do his work in and through us. Knowing that he is at present and at work even when he appears to sleep is a great source of peace and joy.

“Soy un sacerdote feliz, profundamente feliz,” says Fr Evaristo. It’s a kind of personal motto.

“I am a happy, deeply happy priest.”

Fr Evaristo Sada, LC, was born on February 28, 1961 in the city of Monterrey, Mexico. He entered the novitiate of the Legion of Christ in Salamanca, Spain on September 14, 1979 and went on to earn his licentiate in philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University, followed by his bachelor’s degree in theology. On January 3, 1991, he was ordained to the priesthood in St Peter’s Basilica by Pope John Paul II. He is currently the General Secretary of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi.

To view a list of the articles in the series, click here.



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