“I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and arrogant, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief.”  I am often asked by family and friends, “what happened to you?” I smile and take no offense at the question. It’s true. I am different. I have changed. There is something so radically different about me. I am not the person they know or remember me to be. Actually, I am finally myself. The person I was called and created to be.  Deep down inside, I understand the origin of the question and what is being asked of me. My family and friends and perhaps other people in general want to know what happened to me. They want to know when and how did I come to know the love of God. When did I know that God was calling me. How did I hear and recognize God’s voice. How did I come to love and trust God. In my response, I share that I have come to know and love God personally and intimately since the time that I better understood his profound love and his divine and infinite mercy. It wasn’t always the case. It’s the fruit and grace born from what I consider to be my first good, honest, open, truthful, no holding back shame, secrets, lies, or embarrassment confession. Everything was poured out, surrendered and shared. To that point in my life, I never knew nor experienced how profound God’s love was for me and all humanity. I never understood the magnitude of God’s mercy. It’s endless, unfathomable, ever so patient, rich in kindness, unconditionally loving and forever forgiving. Truly, I believe God has forgiven me. God reconciled me to himself. God has truly forgiven me. I have been mercifully treated. God has helped me to receive his forgiveness. God has helped me to forgive others. God has helped me to forgive myself and now I am truly free to be loved by God and to be loving to God, my family, my friends and everyone else. I did not really understand God, his love or his mercy.  I did not really know God because my love was selfish, self serving, conditional and not contrite. My prayer life was the same. I only went and talked to God when I needed him or wanted something or the thought of a certain outcome concerned me or I was afraid of the possibility of failure, embarrassment, or hurt. My love and prayer did not come from the heart. But I have been so mercifully treated. God has given me a second, third and fourth chance. In and through mercy, I have been loved and forgiven and now I never want to sin again. Fr. Ivan