Source: Vatican News Service
In his first General Audience of the new year, held in the Paul VI Hall on Wednesday, 3 January, Pope Francis continued his catechisis on the Eucharist, reflecting on the penitential rite. Even if you feel 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, he said.
In acknowledging our own sinfulness in front of God and others, the rite helps us prepare to celebrate worthily the holy mysteries. Pope Francis said 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.." he said.
Listening in silence to the voice of conscience, enables us to recognise that our thoughts are far from divine thoughts and that our words and our actions are often worldly.
Pope Francis explained that this is why 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, are accompanied by the gesture of beating our breast, acknowledging that we sin out of our own fault, not that of others. Pope Francis warned against our tendency to point our fingers at others…, saying: "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 neighbours. At a certain point, the priest sais: '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 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."
The Sacred Scripture offers us many examples of penitent figures that "found the courage to take off the mask and open themselves to the grace that renews the heart," Pope Francis said. They include King David, Saint Peter, the Prodigal Son and 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."
At the end of the Audience the Pope greeted all the Italian-speaking pilgrims present, with warm wishes of hope and peace for the New Year. He also greeted the General Chapter of the Daughters of Mercy and of the Cross, seminarians from the Consolata Missions Institute; the Prayer and Charity Family Membership of Agropoli and the parish groups, in particular some from Mozzo, from Belvedere di Tezze sul Brenta and from Sant'Arsenio.
He concluded: "A special thought goes to young people, the sick and newlyweds. In this New Year I invite you to receive and share every day the tenderness of God. Dear young people, be messengers of the love of Christ among your contemporaries; dear sick, find in God's caress support in suffering; and you, dear newlyweds, be witnesses of the joy of the Sacrament of Marriage through your faithful and reciprocal love.
The official English-language summary of the Pope's address read during the audience, follows:
Dear brothers and sisters: In our catechesis on the Holy Eucharist, today we consider the penitential rite. To prepare ourselves to celebrate worthily the sacred mysteries, we acknowledge, before God and our brothers and sisters, that we have sinned. Significantly, we make this confession as a community, yet in the Confiteor each of us speaks personally: "I confess… that I have sinned." Like the humble publican in Jesus' parable, we strike our breast and recognize that we are unworthy of the gift of God's mercy and forgiveness. We then beg the intercession of Our Lady and all the angels and saints to sustain us on the path of holiness and conversion. The priest then pronounces the absolution - "May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life". Unlike the absolution granted in confession, this does not remit mortal sin, yet it expresses our trust in God's promise of forgiveness and reconciliation. We thus join the great line of biblical figures - like David, the Prodigal Son and Saint Peter - who, conscious of their sin, acknowledged it before God with confidence in the transforming power of his grace.