Afterward, we prayed the Lord’s Prayer together.

He seemed a bit better, but I could see there was something still nagging at him. He felt terrible about himself, and felt terrible about how he imagined others saw him too. In truth, I was afraid for him. Starting over is hard enough, but how do you keep guilt from coming back to destroy you?

I told him honestly how those thoughts might come back to haunt him for a long time, and they might try to drag him down. When thoughts come to tempt us, telling us, “we’re not good,” or try to keep us in the darkness of our past, do we listen to those voices and allow them to enslave us in sin? Or do we cling ever more to our need for Jesus Christ and his sacrificial love on the Cross, and choose to live even more for him? It is when we fall in a moment of weakness that we are given a new choice, which either leads us into a pattern of sin or into a pattern of deeper trust and relationship with God. This is what defines our life, in the choices that follow our mistakes. For the Christian, that means admitting when we are wrong, and when possible, to help set things right for the people who were hurt by our actions. To apologize with sincerity, and to try harder in the future to choose better.

For the Catholic, an intrinsic part of our choices includes the recognition of Jesus in the Sacraments, and in particular in the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Holy Eucharist. These two provide food for our spiritual journey. The prayer I used with my young friend is a traditional prayer used by many after confessing their sins to a priest in the confessional. It is also a good prayer to pray as we examine our conscience at the end of each day, as we strive to live tomorrow more as our Lord would want. And in the Holy Eucharist, we find Christ truly present, to enter into us when we receive Him through Communion at Mass. Before receiving, we hear the words, “This is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.” To which, the faithful respond, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed.”

My young friend seemed to be taking in what I was saying, and asked where I go to Church. From our position at the top of the hill, heading down, I was able to point over in the shallow valley toward the grove of palm trees that embrace the Church. It happened to be the first Friday of the month when we met, so I told him, “The Church is open all day today and all through tonight for people to come before Jesus in the Eucharist and to pray. We believe that he is truly present in the consecrated bread offered on the altar. It would be a good new beginning for you to go there and tell him what is in your heart. Jesus loves you so much, and he waits for you. When you feel doubt creep in, tell Him, ‘Jesus, I love you. I trust in you.’”

His forehead was no longer filled with lines of worry, and his gaze was steady, no signs of fear or distress like before. And then, he smiled, thanking me for the help. He turned to go, and hesitated, and turned back to me and gave me big bear hug, like one a friend gives another when they haven’t seen one another for a long, long time. It was a hug, welcoming him back to the fold.