VATICAN CITY, MARCH 29, 2004 (Zenit.org).- The sacrament of reconciliation is meant not only to absolve sins but also and above all to lead the faithful to a profound encounter with Christ, says John Paul II.
The Pope reflected on the essential aspects of this sacrament when he received priests and seminarians participating in a course on the “internal forum,” questions of conscience, given by the Apostolic Penitentiary last week.
The fruit of confession “is not only the remission of sins, necessary for any one who has sinned,” the Holy Father said Saturday.
“It produces a real ‘spiritual resurrection,’ a restitution of the dignity and goods of the life of the children of God, the most precious of which is friendship with God,” he said.
Therefore, “it would be illusory to seek holiness, according to the vocation that each one has received from God, without going frequently and fervently to this sacrament of conversion and sanctification,” the Pope said.
This work of sanctification is realized by confession through purification, enlightenment and unification with Christ, he explained.
In the first place, reconciliation by its nature “involves purification, in both the acts of the penitent who lays bare his conscience because of the profound need to be forgiven and reborn, and in the effusion of sacramental grace that purifies and renews,” the Holy Father said.
In the second place, penance is a “sacrament of enlightenment,” he continued. “Those who go to confession frequently and do so with the desire to make progress, know they have received in this sacrament, through pardon from God and grace from the Spirit, a precious light for the path of perfection.”
Finally, John Paul II said that “the sacrament of penance achieves a ‘unifying encounter with Christ.’ Progressively, from confession to confession, the faithful feel an ever deeper communion with the merciful Lord — up to fully identifying with him — that one has in that perfect ‘life of Christ’ in which true holiness consists.”
The Holy Father reminded the priests and seminarians that all confessors “have the great responsibility to exercise this ministry with benevolence, wisdom and courage. Their duty is to make lovable and desirable this encounter which purifies and renews us on the path to Christian perfection and on our pilgrimage to our home.”