On Friday afternoon, Pope Francis presided over a reconciliation service in St. Peter’s Basilica. The event began the Festival of Forgiveness, or 24 Hours for the Lord, sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization. The initiative was echoed in dioceses around the world, which hosted their own round-the-clock prayer and penance services.
After giving the homily, Pope Francis went to confession himself, before taking his place in one of the confessional booths.
Here is a translation of the Holy Father’s homily.
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During the Lenten Season, in the name of God, the Church renews her appeal to conversion. It is a call to change one’s life. To be converted is not a question of a moment or of a period of the year; it is a commitment that lasts one’s whole life. Who among us can presume that he is not a sinner? No one. We are all sinners. The Apostle John writes: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8-9). This is also what is happening in this celebration and in this whole penitential day. The Word of God which we heard introduces us into two essential elements of Christian life.
The first: To be clothed in the new man. The new man, “created after the likeness of God” (Ephesians 4:24), is born in Baptism, where God’s very life is received, which renders us His children and incorporates us with Christ and with his Church. This new life enables one to look at reality with different eyes, without being distracted any longer by things that do not count and cannot last long, by things that end with time. Therefore, we are called to abandon sinful behaviors and to fix our gaze on the essential. “Man is worth more by what he is than by that which he has” (Gaudium et spes, 35). See the difference between the deformed life of sin and that illumined by grace. From the heart renewed according to God comes good behavior: to always speak the truth and to avoid every lie; not steal but rather to share what one has with others, especially with those in need; not to give in to anger, rancor or revenge, but to be meek, magnanimous and quick to forgive; to not fall into slander which ruins persons’ good reputation, but to look in the main on the positive side of everyone. It is to clothe oneself in the new man, with these new attitudes.
The second element: To remain in love. Jesus Christ’s love lasts forever; it will never end, because it is the very life of God. This love overcomes sin and gives the strength to rise and begin again, because with forgiveness the heart is renewed and rejuvenated. We all know it: our Father never tires of loving us and his eyes do not grow heavy in looking at the road home, to see if his son who went away and was lost has returned. We can speak of God’s hope: our Father awaits us always, not only does He leave the door open for us, but He awaits us. He is involved in this awaiting of His children. And this Father does not even grow tired of loving the other son who, though always staying at home with him, is still not a participant in his mercy, in His compassion. Not only is God at the origin of love, but in Jesus Christ he calls us to imitate his very way of loving: “as I have loved you, you also love one another” (John 13:34). In the measure in which Christians live this love, they become in the world credible disciples of Christ. Love cannot endure being shut-in on itself. By its very nature it is open, it spreads and is fruitful, it always generates new love.
Dear brothers and sisters, after this celebration, many of you will become missionaries to propose to others the experience of reconciliation with God. “24 Hours for the Lord” is the initiative in which so many dioceses in the world have joined. To all those you meet you will be able to communicate the joy of receiving the Father’s forgiveness and to rediscover full friendship with Him. And you will say to them that our Father awaits us, our Father forgives us; moreover, He celebrates. If you go to Him with your whole life, also with many sins, instead of reproving you He celebrates: this is our Father. You must say this; you must say it to many people today. He who experiences divine mercy is driven to make himself an architect of mercy among the least and the poor. Jesus waits for us in these “littlest brothers” (cf. Matthew 25:40); we receive mercy and we give mercy! Let us go to meet them and let us celebrate Easter in the joy of God![Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]