The Holy Father reflected on the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the forgiveness of God during his homily at Casa Santa Marta this morning.
Pope Francis commented on Paul’s Letter to the Romans, a reading where Paul professes that “I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” Paul’s acknowledgement of his condition as a “slave” to sin is the manifestation of all Christians’ struggle in “the life of faith.”
“This is the struggle of Christians,” Pope Francis said. “It is our struggle every day. And we do not always have the courage to speak as Paul spoke about this struggle.”
“We always seek a way of justification: ‘But yes, we are all sinners.’ But we say it like that, don’t we? This says it dramatically: it is our struggle. And if we don’t recognize this, we will never be able to have God’s forgiveness. Because if being a sinner is a word, a way of speaking, a manner of speaking, we have no need of God’s forgiveness. But if it is a reality that makes us slaves, we need this interior liberation of the Lord, of that force. But more important here is that, to find the way out, Paul confesses his sin to the community, his tendency to sin. He doesn’t hide it.”
The Holy Father stressed the importance of confessing one’s sins with “concreteness”. Some prefer to “confess to God” so as to have no contact with anyone, while Paul confesses his weakness to his brothers face to face. Others, he continued, will go to confession but say “so many up-in-the-air things, that they don’t have anything concrete.” In confessing such a way, is the “same as not doing it.”
“Confessing our sins is not going to a psychiatrist, or to a torture chamber: it’s saying to the Lord, ‘Lord, I am a sinner,’ but saying it through the brother, because this says it concretely. ‘I am sinner because of this, that and the other thing’”, the Holy Father said.
The 76 year old Pontiff went on to say that through concreteness, honesty and the “sincere ability” to feel shame for one’s sins can bring one to discover the depth of God’s mercy and forgiveness. The approach to confessing one’s sins should be that of little children, who “have that wisdom.”
“When a child comes to confess, he never says something general. ‘But father, I did this and I did that to my aunt, another time I said this word’ and they say the word. But they are concrete, eh? They have that simplicity of the truth. And we always have the tendency to hide the reality of our failings,” the Pope said.
To feel shame in the moment of confessing one’s sins in the presence of God is a grace, he concluded. This “grace of shame” is the same grace exhibited by St. Peter.
“We think of Peter when, after the miracle of Jesus on the lake, [he said] ‘Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinner.’ He is ashamed of his sins in the presence of the sanctity of Jesus,” the Pope said.