Innocently accused

December 1, 2019 -- Living City

Innocently accused
Waiting two years for a court trial, a young man’s faith is challenged

My life was very simple growing up in our small town. I attended a Catholic elementary school and can still remember when I first received the Eucharist and did my first confession. God truly became present to me in a palpable way. As a family, we prayed the rosary, and my parents made sure that we attended Mass every Sunday.

However, when I entered college, God began to take a back seat. My friends, my car and what I would be doing on Saturday night became the focus of my life. Lots of partying and drinking to excess was the norm.

After college, I moved to Dallas and began working in the rehabilitation department of a large hospital. I remember going to work and coming home day after day, while slowly, the emptiness inside me began to grow. I remember thinking to myself: “Is this all there is to life?” To me, it just seemed like one big senseless letdown.

One evening, after returning home from work, a police investigator came to my door. He questioned me extensively about my whereabouts on a particular evening and said that someone had accused me of a very serious crime. He said that he wanted to take my picture to use it in a line up. I was in shock and total disbelief. I had no clue what he was talking about, and I didn’t have any proof to exonerate myself; it was my word against my accuser, as there were no witnesses. 

A few days later, the investigator told me to come to the police station, since my accuser had positively identified my picture. There they took my mugshot and fingerprints. Since I was now a suspect in a crime, I had to get a lawyer and wait for a court date. If the courts found me guilty, I could spend six months in jail and pay a fine. Of course, this meant that I could also lose my job and my license to practice my profession. It seemed as if my life was crumbling.

Little did I know that I would have to wait two years before I would get my day in court. Those years seemed unbearable; I was a complete wreck. 

 At a certain point, I began to angrily turn back to God, asking many questions and wanting some immediate answers. How could a loving God allow me to suffer for a crime that I was not guilty of? Why was God so unfair? 

It was then that I came into contact with the Focolare. I had heard of it through my sister, who invited me to attend the summer gathering called Mariapolis. It seemed very foreign to me at first. These people were serious about putting the Gospel into practice on a daily basis. The whole idea of doing such a thing was novel to me, especially since I had put my faith on the shelf while I was in college.

I remember hearing the “Word of Life”, a sentence from the Bible that everyone tried to put into practice that particular time. It was from St. Paul to the Romans: “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God” (Rom 8:25). In reading it, I understood that through my difficult situation, the Holy Spirit was calling me back to himself, to a life of relationship with God. 

I further realized that even though this was a difficult experience to go through, it was a manifestation of God’s love for me. It became clear to me that when we suffer, our suffering provides an opportunity to grow closer to God. 

Although the charges were dropped in the case, and I was relieved — to say the least — this experience of God’s love profoundly impacted my life. I realized that I wanted, in turn, to respond to this love by putting God first in my life and living for him.

 

- E. R., Texas​


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