Flaco walked slowly toward the waiting Chevy Impala, looking back over his right shoulder to make sure no one was watching the scene. Flaco wanted to be certain that his busybody neighbors weren't focused on him and his waiting "homies". He then looked back over his left shoulder to acknowledge the door being slammed by his girlfriend Marisol. It wasn't her house nor was it Flaco's. It was his parent's house of 34 years. She was there due to lack of options since her parents kicked her out of their house for dating a known criminal. Flaco's parents didn't really like either of them being there but were fearful to say much. She turned back to the slamming door just in time see the Crucifix bounce gently back into place on the wall to the left of the entryway. She then looked out the small window in the door to catch a glimpse of her boyfriend's skinny, tattooed leg being pulled into the car. Those legs with his zip code, 90023, tatted on them were the source of his street name Flaco. His parents, girlfriend and the local East Los Angeles postman all called him by his real name which was Hector Guzman.
Hector had been in and out of jail for what he deemed "small time stuff". Drugs, thefts, fights, etc. All those were child's play compared to what he was headed for now. Blood in, Blood out. He was on his way to accomplish the "Blood in" part of joining one of the most feared gangs in his neighborhood. What that means is that someone is about to have lived their last day. Murder. 150,000 people die each day; this would just be one of them. As Chuey's Impala rolled along, all of its inhabitants were quiet. The only sound was that of an old school Kid Frost rap pounding from the top of the line, stolen sound system. "This is for la raza". The thought reverberated through Flaco's mind as he pondered who his target would be. Mother of four? Policeman? Office worker? How many lives would be impacted by the death of one? That didn't matter to him. So long as one person went down, Flaco was in.
Flaco looked down as the car rolled on. His eyes followed the gold chain he wore down past a tattoo of two roses, the stems of which intertwined through and around two matching pistols. One of the guns had his name on the barrel; the other read "Marisol". The names matched the roses, having a deep red color. The diamond cut chain ended with a hanging, graven image of Christ on the cross which rested on an oversized picture of the Virgin Mary tattooed on his chest. He pulled it out from under his wife-beater style tank top, kissed it and slid it back into place. Flaco, like his family and most of the people in his hood , was born into the Catholic religion. He had done all the works that the Church deemed necessary for salvation. He was baptized as an infant. He had done his First Holy Communion and Confirmation. Even to this day he prayed the Rosary regularly and he still went to church when he wasn't too hung-over. He took communion on those days when he felt like getting up and "doing something for Jesus". Flaco's mind raced as he thought about his upcoming murderous deed but remembering that he had given up video games for Lent, which started today, was somehow comforting to him. In Flaco’s mind, his 40 day sacrifice might somehow help outweigh the bad he had done and all he was going to do. As he wrestled with all of these thoughts, sweat rolled down his forehead and blurred the already smudged ashes that he had gotten on his forehead earlier this morning.
Flaco hoped that all these religious duties would be a sufficient offering (or even bribe if you wanted to call it that) to God in spite of all the sin in his life. After all, he was washed of the original sin as a baby right? Didn't that mean he was saved and could live however he wanted and do whatever he felt like doing? That's the example he was given throughout childhood. His parents lived with no fear of the Lord and they were supposed to have the same "faith" that he did. Yet every Sunday after church, Alejandro Guzman, Hector's father would shout out expletives accompanied by God's name to express his dislike with people's driving in the church parking lot. Alejandro would deny this in the company of certain people which made sense since lying was never an issue for him. As a matter of fact, Flaco’s dad was pretty much the person who taught him how to lie. A partial truth is a whole lie would have been the opposite of Guzman motto. Not only that, Alejandro had cheated on Hector's mother, Maria, several years ago. He had done so more than just that time but that was the only instance he got caught. Maria was no saint either even though she had somehow forgiven Alejandro for his transgressions. She coveted things. That coveting almost always led to theft. She was guilty of not only stealing, but also teaching her son Hector how to do so as well. Who knows how many free things she and her son had gotten from the Walgreens near their house? None of it was of great value but did that matter Flaco thought? Stealing is stealing. He knew because he was guilty of theft too. He, however, had moved on from his mother’s petty theft of nail polish remover and candy bars to cars and money. Did he still have a conscience? The notion brought him back to what he was on his way to do and trying to justify it. Was murder so different than the things his mom and dad did on a regular basis? Weren't blasphemy, adultery, lying, coveting and theft all part of the 10 Commandments handed down by the God of their religion? What would make murder different? He could just go to church Sunday if he didn’t get caught by man’s law and say a few prayers and be ok. He could work off his own sin right? If his parents could be religious and still blatantly live in sin, Flaco felt he should be just fine with his breaking of God's Law.
Chuey mashed on the gas to catch the yellow light and the acceleration brought Flaco back to the situation at hand. He felt a tap on his shoulder and looked back to see a Beretta 9mm pistol being handed to him from the back seat. Lil' Piaso was quiet as a mouse back there but he spoke volumes with just a nod and another thrust forward of the "acquired" handgun. Flaco grabbed it and knew that it was time. Who knows what other weapons Piaso had back there? The '64 Impala screeched to a halt in front of the Pacific Commerce 14 Theater. The door was already opening and out came Flaco with Beretta in hand. He ran up to the closest person and began to raise the 9mm pistol to her head. He tried to steady the gun and his shaking, sweaty hand. As the girl turned toward Flaco, a nearby woman screamed. The young girl tried to process what she was seeing. What she was looking at was a loaded, shaking gun pointed at her face and a skinny, tattooed, pale faced Mexican with eyes that looked as if they were beginning to water. She dropped to her knees before he had a chance to pull the trigger and she began to pray. Flaco seemed unmoved by the girls last ditch effort for salvation. That's when it happened. He looked over to an upcoming movie poster. "Priest" was the name of the movie. The titular character was perched on a building. The poster said only one thing besides the title. REPENT. He lowered the instrument of death as he pondered the word. What did that mean? Chuey and Lil' Piaso yelled for him to hurry from the blue Chevy. "Rapido, rapido!!" He couldn't move. Something had grabbed a hold of his heart. The word repent captivated him. At that moment he realized that all of his attempts to follow church tradition meant nothing. He was supposed to turn from sin in response to what Christ had done on the cross for him. He couldn't continue with the lies and the blasphemy and the stealing anymore. He certainly couldn’t go through with a murder. God's grace wasn't a license to continue sinning like his family had demonstrated to him all of these years. He looked down once again at the sobbing teenager before sliding the gun towards his impatient homies. Flaco took off running as fast as those skinny legs would take him.
Flaco had a small head start due to Lil' Piaso jumping from the back of the car to pick up the weapon which he had taken from his girlfriend’s father’s nightstand. He got back in the front seat and they took off after Flaco. The small tires chirped as the Dayton rims started spinning. The woman who had screamed called 911 and went to comfort the terrified would-be victim who was sitting in her own urine. Meanwhile, Flaco ran towards home. When he was almost there, he stopped in an alley that he thought would be safe and called Marisol. He told her that he didn't go through with it and that he had turned from that thug lifestyle to follow Jesus. She could hardly believe it. Marisol hung up the phone and packed up her things and left Flaco's parents house. She didn’t want him to go in the first place but his new condition was worse to her than his previous one. Hector, the name he had resolved to go by from now on, looked down at the phone. He knew she left but it didn't matter. He had finally found forgiveness. Hector had found true forgiveness with Christ as his Lord and not some sort of just-in-case Savior to be left on the back burner of life. Hector waited quite some time. When he figured the coast to be clear, he headed towards his parent's house. He actually didn't have much of a choice with the General Waste Disposal truck coming toward him down the one lane back road. He got to the end of the alley that was perpendicular to his street when he saw the front of the blue Impala. He had nowhere to go. The trash truck was blocking the only way back. He looked at the open window of the creeping Chevy. A face covered with a blue bandana and dark Ray-Ban sunglasses stared back at him along with a pump shotgun. He knew what was about to happen and he feared not. He knew now where he was going. Time seemed to crawl as Lil' Piaso pumped a shell into the chamber of the Mossberg shotgun and Hector reviewed his life. All those years of religious duties Hector and his family had partaken in meant nothing. Christ had done everything that needed to be done when He died on the cross then three days later rose again and defeated death. Blood in. "Sinners like me can get in to Heaven now thanks to His blood", thought Hector. At least he had the chance to tell one person the good news before this moment even though she didn't accept it. He wished he could have gotten a hold of his mom and dad. Maybe Truth could have triumphed over tradition with them too. Maybe it still will. Hector could no longer be a part of any of that. This was it. Repentance and trusting in Jesus alone for salvation alone was the only thing that helped him now as the flash came before his eyes and his life ended. Blood out.
English Standard Version (ESV)
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.