Pope Francis is nothing if not interesting. When he goes off text or speaks off the cuff… anything can happen. The usual result is that we are left stopped in our tracks and scratching our heads, trying to figure out what he is talking about. Sometimes he seems to contradict Catholic teaching or practice (he doesn’t). The MSM grabs his somewhat artless sound bites and trumpets them, with the result that many Catholic faithful are left confused. One need only call to mind his remarks on nearly every airplane presser he has given.
However, if we breathe deeply and think, we eventually sort out what Francis is talking about.
Today, however, Francis spoke extemporaneously in one of his non-magisterial morning sermonettes about a topic on which he is rock solid: the need to GO TO CONFESSION.
This Pope often talks about the sacrament of penance. Francis talks about confession more than his predecessors, as a matter of fact… and that’s a big win.
From the Vatican Radio account we learn:
Pope Francis said confession is not a judgment but a meeting with God who forgives all our sins, without exception. His words came during his homily at his morning Mass on Friday celebrated in the Santa Marta residence. [I would put it a little differently. Confession is judgment but it is also an exercise in mercy. In the tribunal of confession we are our own prosecutors.]
Basing his reflections on an extract from St Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, the Pope said our God forgives all our sins, always and without exception and He rejoices when somebody asks him for pardon. [That’s a key: we must ask.] This God who pardons us, he continued, choose Jesus to set up a new pact with humanity and the cornerstone of this pact is forgiveness for our sins.
“First of all, God always forgives us. He never tires of this. It’s we who get tired of asking for forgiveness. But HE does not tire of pardoning us. When Peter asked Jesus: ‘How many times must I forgive? Seven times?’ – ‘Not seven times: seventy times by seven.’ Namely always. That’s how God forgives us: always. But if you have lived a life full of so many sins, so many bad things, but in the end, a bit repentant, you ask for forgiveness, He will immediately pardon you! He always pardons us.”
Pope Francis said a doubt can arrive in a person’s heart over how far God is prepared to forgive us. But, he stressed, all you have to do is repent and ask for forgiveness and you don’t have to pay because Christ has already paid on our behalf. [Keep in mind that Christ established the sacrament of penance as the ordinary means by which God desires us to obtain forgiveness for our sins.]
“There is no sin which He won’t pardon. [We little finite mortals cannot commit a sin that is so bad that our infinite and all-powerful God cannot forgive.] He forgives everything. [Provided we ask.] ‘But father, I don’t go to confession because I have committed so many really bad sins, so many that I can’t be pardoned.’ No, this is not true. He forgives everything. If you go (to confession) repentant, He will forgive everything. [And all the sins you have forgotten are forgiven as well, provided you make your confession sincerely and completely as you are able at the time.] When… so many times He doesn’t even let you speak! You start to ask for forgiveness and He lets you feel that joy of forgiveness before you have even finished confessing everything.”
The Pope went on to describe how God rejoices when somebody asks for forgiveness and at the same time He “forgets” or wipes out from his memory our sins. [An important point! But note that Francis used ” “. God cannot forget. That said, once we have confessed our sins and obtained absolution, it is as if they never were on our soul. They are gone, eradicated, taken away, washed clean in the Blood of the Lamb. They are not merely “ignored” by God, or “covered over”. That is an error non-Catholics make. On the contrary, they are so thoroughly forgiven that they are, quite simply, no more. We remember them, but the sins will not be “remembered” against us at our judgment.] The reason for this, he explained, is because what matters for God is for us to meet with him. Confession is not a judgment but a meeting with God. [Well… it’s also a judgment, but one in which mercy is exercised.]
“Confessions often seem like a procedure, a formality. Everything is mechanical! No! Where’s the meeting in this? [Well… the process, the formality can free a penitent and help her get past the jitters. Also, there is nothing wrong with formality in a moment which is so profound as submitting oneself to God for, yes, judgment and mercy. But the Pope is surely meaning to be encouraging.] The meeting with the Lord who pardons you, hugs you and rejoices. [Maybe the Lord hugs you, but don’t expect me to, not in the confessional.] And this is our God who is so good. We too need to teach (others): teach our children, our youngsters to make a good confession, because going to confession is not like going to the dry cleaners to get a stain removed. No! It’s about going to meet with our Father who pardons us, who forgives us and who rejoices.”
Everyone… GO TO CONFESSION.