The Salvation of Jesus is not cosmetic, but transformative.
According to Vatican News, during his daily morning Mass at Casa Santa Marta on Thursday, Sept. 6, the third since resuming after his summer break, Pope Francis highlighted that for us to be saved, we first must recognize ourselves as sinners, and know the proper place for accusations.
The Pope was reflecting on today’s Gospel reading from St Luke (Lk 5:1-11), which Jesus preaches from Peter’s boat then directs Peter to cast his nets into the deep waters, after which, they caught many fish.
The Jesuit Pope reflected that this is one of the times we see “an anointing of Peter. When Jesus changed Peter’s name, as well, Peter “felt proud because he truly loved Jesus,” and this miraculous catch, Francis also noted, represented a step forward in his life.
When the nets were almost about to break since there were so many fish, Peter, Francis recalled, throws himself at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
“This,” the Pope said, “is the first decisive step of Peter along the path of discipleship, of the disciple of Jesus, accusing himself: ‘I am a sinner.’ This is Peter’s first step; and also the first step for each one of us, if you want to go forward in the spiritual life, in the life of Jesus, serving Jesus, following Jesus, must be this, accusing oneself: without accusing oneself you cannot walk in the Christian life.”
However, he stressed, there is a risk: while we all know that we are sinners in a general way, “it is not easy” to accuse ourselves of being sinners concretely.
He noted we are so used to saying, “I am a sinner,” like how we say, “I am human,” or “I am an Italian citizen.”
To truly accuse ourselves, on the other hand, Francis said, means really feeling our own misery: “to feel miserable,” misery, before the Lord, and is related to shame.
This, he noted, is something that does not come from words, but from the heart, like when Peter told Jesus to depart from him.
Sincere confession, Pope Francis said, is needed for Jesus’ Salvation because “it is not a cosmetic thing,” that changes your looks with “two brushstrokes.” Rather, he said, it transforms. “Because you enter into it, you have to make room for it with a sincere confession of your own sins; and so one experiences the wonder that Peter felt”
Conversion’s first step, he said, is to accuse oneself with shame, and to try to experience the wonder of feeling that you are saved. “We have to be converted,” he reminded, saying, “we must do penance.”
Pope Francis invited those gathered to reflect on the temptation to accuse others.
“There are people who go through life talking about others, accusing others and never thinking of their own sins. And when I go to make my confession, how do I confess? Like a parrot? ‘Bla, bla, bla… I did this, this…’ But are you touched at heart by what you have done? Many times, no.
“You go there to put on make-up, to make-yourself up a little bit in order to look beautiful,” he said, adding: “But it hasn’t entered completely into your heart, because you haven’t left room, because you are not capable of accusing yourself.”
Grace, the Pope stressed, is required when speaking of these situations.
“A sign that a person does not know, that a Christian does not know how to accuse himself is when he is accustomed to accusing others, to talking about others, to being nosy about the lives of others. And that is an ugly sign. Do I do this? It’s a good question to get to the heart [of things].”
The Pope concluded, praying: ‘Today let us ask the Lord for the grace, the grace to find ourselves face to face with Him with this wonder that His presence gives; and the grace to feel that we are sinners, but concretely, and to say with Peter: ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinner.’”