"The soothing joy of God's forgiveness"
The following are excerpts from a recent address which Pope Benedict XVI gave on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Just as the Papal preacher’s Palm Sunday homily affirmed the past comments of one anonymous blogger about faith, so the words of the Holy Father stress some of my points about Confession, albeit much more profoundly!
…It is necessary today to assist those who confess to experience that divine tenderness to repentant sinners which many Gospel episodes portray with tones of deep feeling.
Let us take, for example, the passage in Luke's Gospel that presents the woman who was a sinner and was forgiven (cf. Lk 7:36-50). Simon, a Pharisee and a rich dignitary of the town, was holding a banquet at his home in honour of Jesus. In accordance with a custom of that time, the meal was eaten with the doors left open, for in this way the fame and prestige of the homeowner was increased. All at once, an uninvited and unexpected guest entered from the back of the room: a well-known prostitute.
One can understand the embarrassment of those present, which did not seem, however, to bother the woman. She came forward and somewhat furtively stopped at Jesus' feet. She had heard his words of pardon and hope for all, even prostitutes; she was moved and stayed where she was in silence. She bathed Jesus' feet with tears, wiped them dry with her hair, kissed them and anointed them with fragrant ointment.
By so doing, the sinner woman wanted to express her love for and gratitude to the Lord with gestures that were familiar to her, although they were censured by society.
Amid the general embarrassment, it was Jesus himself who saved the situation: "Simon, I have something to say to you". "What is it, Teacher?", the master of the house asked him. We all know Jesus' answer with a parable which we can sum up in the following words which the Lord addressed basically to Simon: "You see? This woman knows she is a sinner; yet prompted by love, she is asking for understanding and forgiveness. You, on the other hand, presume yourself to be righteous and are perhaps convinced that you have nothing serious for which to be forgiven".
The message that shines out from this Gospel passage is eloquent: God forgives all to those who love much. Those who trust in themselves and in their own merits are, as it were, blinded by their ego and their heart is hardened in sin.
Those, on the other hand, who recognize that they are weak and sinful entrust themselves to God and obtain from him grace and forgiveness.
It is precisely this message that must be transmitted: what counts most is to make people understand that in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, whatever the sin committed, if it is humbly recognized and the person involved turns with trust to the priest-confessor, he or she never fails to experience the soothing joy of God's forgiveness.
…If this constant desire is absent, the celebration of the Sacrament unfortunately risks becoming something formal that has no effect on the fabric of daily life.
If, moreover, even when one is motivated by the desire to follow Jesus one does not go regularly to confession, one risks gradually slowing his or her spiritual pace to the point of increasingly weakening and ultimately perhaps even exhausting it…