Just recently some items were stolen from Father Gareth’s car. He had been exposing the Blessed Sacrament for Adoration at 4.30pm on a Saturday evening, when a man walked in through the back of the church and out into the yard, seemingly knowing the lay of the land, managed to get into the car, and walked out past Father Gareth carrying Father Gareth’s bag with some important documents inside, and also wearing Father Gareth’s coat. By the time it dawned on Father Gareth what had happened the thief was gone. I had great admiration for Father Gareth when he prayed for the perpetrator at the Vigil Mass just an hour or so later.
On the very same day I realised that I had been the victim of identity theft when I received confirmation from Amazon of an item being delivered to me in Dublin, costing £260, that I had never ordered. I managed to cancel the order but then had the inconvenience of having to cancel my credit card and request a new one. A lesson on vigilance for both of us! It’s not a nice experience being the victim of theft, but then neither is it a nice experience being wrongly accused of theft, and that was something that happened to me a few years ago.
I had gone into Dublin city centre on the bus and while I was there the sky darkened, the thunder clapped, and the heavens opened. To get out of the rain I went into Bewleys Cafe. I got a mug of coffee and then took a notion on a bottle of freshly squeezed orange juice. I brought them to one of the tills and paid for them, then realised I had no cup for the orange juice, so I went back and picked one up and then cut down by the other till and found a nice table by the corner. I discarded my wet coat and settled down with my drinks – no sticky buns or Danish pastries as it was Lent. Just as I was enjoying my coffee a big burly security man approached the table and said to me, “Excuse me sir, but would you mind going back and paying for those.” “Pardon,” says I. “You walked past the till and didn’t pay for those,” he said. “I certainly did pay for them,” I protested. “No, you didn’t, sir,” he says.
With the eyes of other patrons on me, no doubt enjoying the show, I did not feel like the disciples on Tabor last Sunday, that it was good to be there, in fact I felt quite the opposite.
Suddenly I realised what must have happened, that when I had gone back to get a cup for the orange juice I then passed by a different till from the one at which I had paid, and this had caused the confusion. I also realised that, for once in my life, I hadn’t crumpled up and discarded the receipt and that it was lying on the table in front of me. I calmly produced this to the satisfaction and embarrassment of the security man who then offered me a humble apology. I had hoped for free coffee for a month and a year’s supply of carrot cake, or some other such recompense for my humiliation, but none was offered, and to be fair it was an understandable mistake. Since then I always hold on to receipts until safe to discard.
I don’t imagine there would be much repentance from the man who stole from Father Gareth, or from the person who stole my identity, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. Here's a reflection on the repentant thief by Thomas Merton, from No Man is an Island:
God does not demand that every person attain to what is theoretically highest and best. It is better to be a good street sweeper than a bad writer, better to be a good bartender than a bad doctor, and the repentant thief who died with Jesus on Calvary was far more perfect than the holy ones who had Him nailed to the cross… The dying thief had, perhaps, disobeyed the will of God in many things: but in the most important event of his life he listened and obeyed. The Pharisees had kept the law to the letter, and had spent their lives in the pursuit of a most scrupulous perfection. But they were so intent upon perfection as an abstraction that, when God manifested His will and His perfection in a concrete and definite way, they had no choice but to reject it.