The short, stout, white-bearded priest, father Nicanor Garcia, had finally reached the limits of his patience. It had been four years since he had been furiously preaching Bible morals in the Amazonian sweltering heat. But the sermons just didn't seem to sink in. Adultery and fornication were rampant as well as many other sins which were clearly condemned by the Bible and he didn't know why. If he shouted his sermons any louder he feared his tonsils would explode. So it couldn't be that he wasn't being heard. Yet they seemed completely unmoved by his constant warnings. It seemed that the more he preached the more they were inclined to sin.
But what really irked Father Garcia most were the smug, contented faces they brought to the church services. It was as if they believed that God was unaware of their dishonesty. As if they felt that there was actually somewhere to hide from his all-seeing eyes. But bad weather that evening would show them. Fortunately for him, no villager listened to the radio as he did. They were far too busy hunting and fishing. Sure, a few dark clouds had been sighted. But that was nothing unusual. So the unexpected thunderstorm during his sermon would hopefully help.
No, he wasn't being cruel. In fact, he had been patient and cared about his congregation. But there comes a time when people need to be traumatized in order to pay attention to the Lord, and he was sure that this experience would set them firmly on the path to salvation. After all, had not God repeatedly awed Israel into a reverence that they had once stubbornly been reluctant to show? So with the help of stormy weather, hopefully he could finally reach their hearts and motivate them to repentance.
So there they were that gusty afternoon, dressed in their finest as usual, but as Jesus had said to the Pharisees, the outer cup might appear righteous though the inside needed cleansing.
"I suppose many of you are planning on coming to me for confession after the service right?" he said, glaring over his thick, tinted, bifocal glasses.
"Apparently, many of you think that this is all some kind of a game! Right? Well, let me assure you that it is not."
At that moment it thundered and a sudden gust of wind shook the building. That was followed by the loud patter of raindrops on the church's corrugated, tin roof. The congregation stirred worriedly for a few moments but then gradually settled down. He smiled at the coincidence. After all, he needed all the help he could get in order to get through to these morally-decadent people.
Squinting triumphantly, he continued while raising the Bible above his head with his right hand and shaking it vigorously for emphasis. His thick, full, white beard momentarily glimmered in the light giving him the look of some ancient Hebrew prophet. His square, jutting jaw made it even more impressing.
“Adam and Eve imagined the same thing and lost out on life! You fine folk all know that by now-don't you?"
"Amen and Hallelujah!" the village’s prime adulterer, Jonatan Riviera, suddenly intoned in a high-pitched, quavering voice while eyeing the exposed lower leg of his best friend's wife with whom he had been secretly involved for the past five years.
"Praise be the Lord almighty!" she suddenly exclaimed in response, and there were muffled giggles from the others in attendance who knew about their illicit relationship but had never informed her sleepy-faced husband.
"Do not be deceived! For whatever a man is sowing that also shall he reap!" Father Garcia shouted while pointing in the general direction of the two.
"Amen! The truth shall set you free!" the decrepid village habitual liar shouted with an emaciated, sanctimonious face and a black-leather King James Version Bible firmly clasped in his right hand. Then proceeded to dance and shuffled around a bit as if inspired by holy spirit as he usually did at all church services before finally taking a seat and dozing off for the remainder.
“It is not by bread alone!”“ Father Garcia started to utter, but before he could finish, he was interrupted by the four-hundred pound, morbidly obese, porcine-faced village glutton whom God had gifted with an unusually resonant, deep voice that never needed amplification.
"....but by every utterance proceeding out of the Lord's mouth!" the glutton blared and his triple chin undulated in response. He had made a Herculean effort to come to his feet assisted by his cadaverous-looking mother and anemic, emaciated brother and was sweating profusely from the effort. Unable to remain standing, he fell to his seat and destroyed it in the process as both its bamboo legs snapped like twigs. Father Garcia was pleased to hear two immediate thunder claps as this happened and the lights in the church flickered ominously. That added to his conviction that the Lord was indeed expressing his displeasure.
“For he who steals let him steal no more!” Father Garcia continued with one ear perked hopefully to the increasing howl of the wind outside and the growing cacophony of the downpour on the church’s tin roof which nearly drowned out his voice.
“Amen!” shouted the village thief, Benicio Garalofago whom Father Garcia had found stealing money from the church contribution box on numerous occasions while everyone else had stood with eyes shut and in silent prayer. He noticed that the thief, don Garalofago was now suddenly sporting a new pair of black, patent-leather shoes and wondered where he had gotten the extra money since his cane-cutting salary was obviously too meager to allow it . That’s when he noticed that a golden crucifix on one of the church walls next to the confession vestibule was missing. Controlling his growing suspicion, frustration and growing desire to wring Don Garalofago's neck as he did the chickens he slaughtered each weekend, he managed to continue:
"And he told the woman whom the crowd was about to stone, “Go and sin no more!" he shouted, a thick purple vein bulging from his pale neck and spittle flying from his thin lips with the effort to be heard above the pelting rain.
At that moment the the village prostitute, Maria Del Carmen, who had been promising to mend her ways for the last ten years but never did, arrived soaking wet. He had always suspected that the only reason Maria had ever attended services was for advertising purposes. Always smilingly while coquettishly displaying her pale, burgeoning breasts, tight skirts always hugging her generous hips, and scarlet red lipstick on her thick luscious lips.
Of course the wetness of the rain was to her advantage since it caused her clothing stick to her form and the ogling eyes of the faithful, including his own, were drinking it all in. It usually disrupted his sermons by causing him to stutter but tonight he would prevail.
After feigning a deeply reverent embarrassment, and giving the Father a furtive almond-eyed glance, Maria quickly genuflected and took a seat at the back as usual from where she could survey any prospective client, of course..
After taking a deep breath and silently asking the Lord for spiritual fortitude, father Garcia continued:
"It is because of your sins that disaster will finally befall you! Repent before it becomes too late! Before the day of his wrath arrives," he shouted from the pulpit.
Just then, village constable, Eusebio Pedrosa, a lanky, tall, gray-haired, fellow in his mid fifties and his assistant the young, short, stout Felipe Belgrano, casually sauntered in with their white straw hats in hand and took a seat in the back row.
Both were thoroughly drenched with rain and their boots were splattered with mud from making the trip from police headquarters all the way to his church. They had never attended before, so Father Garcia wondered what was really on their minds. Especially with the grave looks they both had on their gaunt, tanned mestizo faces and they way that they were swiveling their dark eyes as if carefully examining their surroundings. Also, the suspicious way that the congregation members were whispering and snickering wasn’t exactly comforting.
“Hola amigos!” Father Garcia finally said in the calmest voice he could muster,
“Welcome to our meeting and may the Lord bless you for your act of faith in attending despite the stormy weather,” Father Garcia heard himself utter nervously as he began to remember that his own recent behavior had not been quite as Christian as he would have wanted. To make matters worse, the two didn’t respond but just sat ramrod straight staring at him as a Jaguar stares at prey just before attacking. Finally, The constable, Eusebio Pedrosa, slowly rose to his feet and spoke, both hands still clasping the rim of his beige hat.
“There is a matter of great urgency we wish to discuss with you Father Garcia.”
“Ah! is it about the theft from the contribution box that I reported?”
“No, it is about your embezzling of church funds that you used for gambling purposes.”
Incidentally, it thundered several times as Father Garcia was handcuffed and led him away and church members clapped as they had never clapped before.