For Francis, who was confessed and confessed some people during a penitential service, “evil is strong, it has a seductive power: it attracts and fascinates. Our own efforts are not enough to detach ourselves from it: we need a greater love.” Thus, “Let us start over, then, from Confession, let us restore to this sacrament the place it deserves in life and pastoral ministry!”
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis led a penitential liturgy today in St Peter’s Basilica, opening the traditional world-wide ‘24 hours for the Lord’, an event that marks its sixth edition.
In his address, the pontiff said that the “heart” of the confession is not sins we own up to “but the divine love we receive, of which we are ever in need.” During the service, he was confessed. Earlier, during his homily, he commented on the Gospel story of the adulterous woman. “It is Jesus who, with the power of the Holy Spirit, frees us from the evil we have within us, from the sin which the Law could impede but not remove.
“All the same, evil is strong, it has a seductive power: it attracts and fascinates. Our own efforts are not enough to detach ourselves from it: we need a greater love. Without God, we cannot overcome evil. Only his love raises us up from within, only his tender love poured out into our hearts makes us free. If we want to be free from evil, we have to make room for the Lord who forgives and heals. He accomplishes this above all through the sacrament we are about to celebrate. Confession is the passage from misery to mercy; it is God’s writing upon the heart. There – in our hearts – we constantly read that we are precious in the eyes of God, that he is our Father and that he loves us even more than we love ourselves.”
“How many times do we feel alone, that we have lost our way in life. How many times do we no longer know how to begin again, overwhelmed by the effort to accept ourselves. We need to start over, but we don’t know where to begin. Christians are born from the forgiveness they receive in Baptism. They are always reborn from the same place: from the surprising forgiveness of God, from his mercy which restores us. Only by being forgiven can we set out again with fresh confidence, after having experienced the joy of being loved by the Father to the full. Only through God’s forgiveness do truly new things happen within us.
“Let us hear again words the Lord spoke through the prophet Isaiah: ‘Behold, I am doing a new thing’ (Is 43:19). Forgiveness gives us a new beginning, makes us new creatures, helps us take hold of a new life. God’s forgiveness is not a photocopy which is identically reproduced in every passage through the confessional. Receiving pardon for our sins through a priest is always a new, distinctive and unique experience. We pass from being alone with our miseries and accusers, like the woman in the Gospel, to being raised up and encouraged by the Lord who grants us a new start.”
“What do we need to do to come to love mercy, to overcome the fear of Confession? Let us accept once more the invitation of Isaiah: ‘Do you not perceive it?’ (Is 43:19). It is important to perceive God’s forgiveness. It would be beautiful, after Confession, to remain like that woman, our eyes fixed on Jesus who has just set us free: no longer looking at our miseries, but rather at his mercy. To look at the Crucified One and say with amazement: ‘That’s where my sins ended up. You took them upon yourself. You didn’t point your finger at me; instead, you opened your arms and forgave me once again’.
“It is important to be mindful of God’s forgiveness, to remember his tender love, and taste again and again the peace and freedom we have experienced. For this is the heart of Confession: not the sins we declare, but the divine love we receive, of which we are ever in need. We may still have a doubt: ‘Confessing is useless, I am always committing the same sins’. The Lord knows us, however; he knows that the interior struggle is difficult, that we are weak and inclined to fall, that we often relapse into doing what is wrong. So he proposes that we begin to relapse into goodness, into asking for mercy. He will raise us up and make us new creatures. Let us start over, then, from Confession, let us restore to this sacrament the place it deserves in life and pastoral ministry!”