Even if fearful or ashamed, ask sincere pardon for your sins to God and let His merciful gaze transform you, as he did many figures in the Bible.
Pope Francis stressed this during this morning’s General Audience in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall, Jan. 3, 2018, as he continued his catechesis on the Holy Eucharist, and today considering the penitential rite.
In acknowledging our sinfulness in front of God and others, the rite intends to help dispose oneself to celebrate worthily the holy mysteries. The Pontiff reminded those gathered that the priest’s invitation is addressed to the whole community in prayer, because we are all sinners.
“What can the Lord give to one whose heart is already full of himself, of his success? Nothing, because one who is presumptuous is incapable of receiving forgiveness, satiated as he is with his presumed justice.”
Yet one who is aware of his miseries and lowers his eyes with humility, the Pope reminded, feels God’s merciful look resting on him, noting we know from experience that only one who is able to acknowledge his mistakes and asks for forgiveness, receives the understanding and forgiveness of others.
To listen in silence to the voice of conscience, the Holy Father continued, enables us to recognize that our thoughts are far from divine thoughts and that our words and our actions are often worldly.
Let God’s Merciful Gaze Rest on You
For this reason, at the beginning of the Mass, the Pope explained, we as a community carry out the penitential rite through a formula of general confession, pronounced in the first person singular. Each one confesses to God and to brethren to have sinned much in thoughts, words, deeds and omissions.
The words we say during the rite, the Pope reminded, are accompanied by the gesture of beating our breast, acknowledging that we sin out of our own fault, not that of others.
The Pope then warned against our tendency to often point our fingers at others, even if at times, out of fear or shame.
“I remember a story, which an old missionary told, of a woman who went to confession and began to tell the errors of her husband; then she went on to tell the errors of her mother-in-law and then the sins of neighbors. At a certain point, the confessor said to her: ‘But, lady, tell me, have you finished? — Very good: you have finished with others’ sins. Now begin to tell yours.’ We must tell our sins!”
“Sin,” the Pontiff underscored, “breaks: it breaks the relationship with God and it breaks the relationship with brethren, the relationship in the family, in society and in the community: Sin always breaks, separates, divides.”
Stop Pointing Fingers
After confessing our sin, the Argentine Pope reminded we beseech the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Angels and the Saints to pray to the Lord for us.
“Sacred Scripture offers us luminous examples of “penitent” figures that, looking into themselves after having committed a sin, find the courage to take off the mask and open themselves to the grace that renews the heart.” Some of these figures we can remember, he said, include King David, Saint Peter, the Prodigal Son or the Samaritan woman.
“To measure oneself with the frailty of the clay of which we are kneaded is an experience that strengthens us: while it makes us deal with our weakness, it opens the heart to invoke the Divine Mercy, which transforms and converts.”
Pope Francis concluded, reminding this is exactly what we do in the penitential rite at the beginning of Mass.
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