The following is an abbreviated extract from a recent homily of Pope Francis.
Through the Sacraments of Christian initiation — Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist – we receive new life in Christ. Now we have this life “in earthen vessels”, we are still subject to temptation, to suffering, to death and, because of sin, we can even lose this new life. This is why the Lord Jesus wished His Church to continue His work of salvation, in particular with the Sacrament of Reconciliation and that of the Anointing of the Sick, which can be united under the name of “Sacraments of Healing”. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when I go to confess, it is to heal myself, to heal my soul and to heal my heart. The biblical icon that expresses best their profound bond is the episode of the forgiveness and healing of the paralytic, where the Lord Jesus reveals himself at the same time as doctor of souls and of bodies.
At Easter the Lord appeared to the disciples and after greeting them, “Peace be with you,” he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven”. This passage reveals to us the most profound dynamic that is contained in this Sacrament. First of all, the fact is that the forgiveness of our sins is not something that we can give ourselves. I cannot say: I forgive my sins. Forgiveness is asked, it is asked of another and in Confession we ask for forgiveness from Jesus. Forgiveness is a gift of the Holy Spirit, who fills us with the purification of mercy and grace which flows incessantly from the wide open heart of Christ crucified and risen. In the second place, it reminds us that only if we allow ourselves to be reconciled in the Lord Jesus can we really be in peace. Pope Francis then explained that Reconciliation is a communal exercise because the Holy Spirit works within the community and also because sin has a social dimension, it destroys trust and relationships. “One may say: I only confess with God. Yes, you can say to God “forgive me” and say your sins, but our sins are also against others and the community of the Church. For this it is necessary to ask forgiveness from the community in the person of the priest. “But Father, I am ashamed….” Well, even shame does us well, because it makes us more humble, and when Confession is ended, one feels free, great, beautiful.
When was the last time that I confessed? If a long time has passed, don’t miss another day, go. Jesus is there, and he receives you with so much love. Be courageous and go to Confession! Dear friends, to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation is to be wrapped in a warm embrace: it is the embrace of the infinite mercy of the Father.