Rediscover Confession, Urges Benedict XVI

Calls It Sacrament of Forgiveness

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 15, 2009 ( Sin is what puts distance between the believer and God, and it’s the sacrament of confession that brings the two back together, says Benedict XVI.

The Pope said this today in a Gospel reflection on Mark’s account of the healed leper, which he delivered before praying the midday Angelus with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

In the Gospel account, recalls the Pontiff, the leper «gets on his knees and says: ‘If you wish, you can make me clean!’ Jesus, moved, stretches out his hand, touches him and says: ‘I do wish it. Be made clean!'»

«According to the ancient Jewish law,» the Holy Father explained, «leprosy was not only considered a sickness but the gravest form of ‘impurity.'»

He continued: «Leprosy thus constituted a kind of religious and civil death, and its healing was a kind of resurrection. We might see in leprosy a symbol of sin, which is the true impurity of heart, distancing us from God.

«It is not, in effect, physical malady that distances us from him, as the ancient norms supposed, but sin, the spiritual and moral evil.»

Benedict XVI reflected: «The sins we commit distance us from God, and, if they are not humbly confessed, trusting in the divine mercy, they will finally bring about the death of the soul. This miracle thus has powerful symbolic value.

«In the Sacrament of Penance Christ crucified and risen, through his ministers, purifies us with his infinite mercy, restores us to communion with the heavenly Father and our brothers, and makes a gift of his love, joy and peace to us.»

«Dear brothers and sisters,» he concluded, «let us invoke the Virgin Mary, whom God preserved from every stain of sin, that she help us to avoid sin and to have frequent recourse to the sacrament of confession, the sacrament of forgiveness, whose value and importance for our Christian life needs to be rediscovered today.»

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