Returning, as he often does, to God’s mercy and forgiveness, Pope Francis reminded his general audience this week that the Sacrament of Penance is “a gift from the Holy Spirit.”
“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”.
Asking the crowd in St. Peter’s Square “When was the last time you went to confession?” he added, “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, and 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.”
Recognizing that fear can often keep us from confession, the Pope added that “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!”
Image Credit: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz
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