The light of welcome and the grace of reconciliation will be waiting in every parish of the Diocese of Dallas on Wednesday, March 25th and Wednesday, April 1st. Confession is difficult for many, particularly those who have been away from the Church or the sacrament for a long time. I know of nothing better on this topic than the recent words of encouragement and welcome from Pope Francis.
Speaking to a crowd in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said, “When was the last time you went to confession? If a long time has passed, do not waste another day. Go,the priest will be good. It is Jesus who is there, and Jesus is better than a priest. Jesus will receive you. He will receive you with love. Be courageous and go to confession! … Every time we confess, God embraces us, God celebrates! Let us go ahead on this path. May God bless you!”
The Holy Father continued, “It is not enough to ask for the Lord’s forgiveness in our own minds and hearts, but rather it is also necessary to humbly and trustfully confess our sins to a minister of the Church. …The priest does not only represent God, but rather the community as a whole. Anyone who seeks to confess only to God should remember that our sins are also committed against our brothers and against the Church, which is why it is necessary to ask forgiveness from them too… the priest receives this confession with love and tenderness, and forgives in the name of God.”
“The forgiveness of our sins is not something we can offer to ourselves; it is not the result of our efforts, but rather a gift from the Holy Spirit, which fills us from the wellspring of mercy and grace that surges endlessly from the open heart of Christ, crucified and risen again. … It reminds us that it is only by allowing ourselves to be reconciled through the Lord Jesus with the Father and with our brothers that we may truly be at peace.”
Recognizing that fear can often keep us from confession, the pope added, “From a human point of view, to unburden oneself, it is good to speak with a brother and to tell the priest those things which lie so heavily upon our hearts. And one feels unburdened before God, with the Church, and with a brother. Do not be afraid of confession!” The Holy Father went on to note, “A priest’s heart is a heart that is able to be touched. … If it is true that tradition suggests the dual role of doctor and judge for confessors, we must never forget that the doctor cures and the judge absolves… Confession is not a sentencing court, but rather, an experience of forgiveness and mercy!”