Continuing his catechetical series on the Sacraments, Pope Francis reflected on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which along with the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick form what he described the “Sacraments of Healing”.
“The Sacraments of Penance and Reconciliation […] flow directly from the Paschal mystery,” he told pilgrims attending his weekly general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
“In fact, the same evening of Easter the Lord appeared to the disciples, closed in the Cenacle, and, after addressing to them the greeting ‘Peace be with you’, he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven.’”
This indication by Jesus, the Pope stressed, shows that the forgiveness of our sins is not gained through any strength of our own, rather it is a gift that springs from the heart of Christ Crucified and Risen.
Departing from his prepared statement, the Holy Father spoke on the reservations one might have to confessing their sins to a priest. “Someone may say: ‘I confess only to God.’ Yes, you can tell God: ‘Forgive me’, and say your sins,” he said. “But our sins are also against the brothers, against the Church, and for this it is necessary to ask forgiveness to the Church and to the brothers, in the person of the priest.”
The Holy Father also said that some may feel ashamed of confessing their sins. However, he noted, feeling shame for one’s sins is good because it humbles us.
“Do not be afraid of Confession!” he exclaimed. One who is in line to confess himself feels all these things – even shame – but then, when he finishes confessing, he leaves free, great, beautiful, forgiven, […] happy. And this is the beauty of Confession.”
Concluding his catechesis, Pope Francis encouraged those who have not confessed, whether it be for two weeks or 40 years, to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation as soon as possible. “Jesus is there, and Jesus is much better than the priests, and Jesus receives you. He receives you with so much love. Be courageous, and go forward to Confession,” he said.
“To celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation means to be wrapped in a warm embrace.”