TO PARTICIPANTS IN THE COURSE ON THE INTERNAL FORUM,
PROMOTED BY THE APOSTOLIC PENITENCY
Paul VI Audience Hall
Friday, 12 March 2021
Dear brothers, good morning!
The Cardinal - I thank him for his words - insisted on Saint Joseph. For months [he said to me]: “Write something about Saint Joseph, write something about Saint Joseph”. And the Letter on St. Joseph is largely his work.
And so, thank you ...
I apologize for sitting, but I thought: they are sitting, I too take it ... I shouldn't, but after the trip my legs are still felt. Excuse me.
I am pleased to welcome you on the occasion of the Course on the Internal Forum, organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary and which this year has reached its 31st edition. The Course is a customary appointment which, providentially, falls in the time of Lent, a time of penitence and a time of desert, of conversion, of penance and acceptance of mercy - also for us. I greet Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Major Penitentiary, and I thank him for his words, as I said before, and with him I greet the Regent, the Prelates, the Officials and Staff of the Penitentiary, the Colleges of ordinary and extraordinary penitentiaries of the Papal Basilicas. in Urbe and all of you participating in the Course which, due to the need of the pandemic, had to be carried out onlinebut with the notable participation of 870 clerics! Nice number!
I would like to dwell with you on three expressions which explain well the meaning of the Sacrament of Reconciliation; because going to confession is not going to the dry cleaners to get a stain off me. No, that's another thing. Let's think about what it is. The first expression that explains this sacrament, this mystery is: "abandoning oneself to Love"; the second: “letting oneself be transformed by Love”; and the third: “to correspond to Love”. But always Love: if there is no Love in the sacrament, it is not as Jesus wants it to be. If there is functionality, it is not as Jesus wants it to be. Love. The love of a forgiven sinful brother - as the Cardinal said - towards the forgiven brother, sister, sinner and sinner. This is the fundamental relationship.
Abandoning oneself to Love means making a true act of faith. Faith can never be reduced to a list of concepts or a series of statements to be believed. Faith is expressed and understood in a relationship: the relationship between God and man and between man and God, according to the logic of the call and the response: God calls and man responds. The reverse is also true: we call God when we are in need, and He always answers. Faith is the encounter with Mercy, with God himself who is Mercy - God's name is Mercy - and it is the abandonment into the arms of this Love, mysterious and generous, of which we need so much, but for which, sometimes, one is afraid to abandon oneself.
Experience teaches that those who do not abandon themselves to the love of God sooner or later end up abandoning themselves to something else, ending up "in the arms" of the worldly mentality, which in the end brings bitterness, sadness and loneliness, and does not heal. Then the first step for a good Confession is precisely the act of faith, of abandonment, with which the penitent approaches Mercy. And every confessor, therefore, must be able to always be amazed by the brothers who, by faith, ask for God's forgiveness and, again only by faith, abandon themselves to him, giving themselves up in confession. The pain for one's sins is the sign of this trusting abandonment to Love.
Living Confession in this way means letting oneself be transformed by Love. It is the second dimension, the second expression on which I would like to reflect. We know well that it is not the laws that save, it is enough to read chapter 23 of Matthew: the individual does not change due to an arid series of precepts, but due to the fascination of perceived and freely offered Love. It is the Love that was fully manifested in Jesus Christ and in his death on the cross for us. Thus Love, who is God himself, has made himself visible to men, in a previously unthinkable way, totally new and therefore capable of renewing all things. The penitent who encounters, in the sacramental conversation, a ray of this welcoming Love, allows himself to be transformed by Love, by Grace, beginning to experience that transformation of the heart of stone into a heart of flesh, which is a transformation that takes place in every confession. . Even in the emotional life it is like this:
The good confessor is always called to see the miracle of change, to be aware of the work of Grace in the hearts of penitents, favoring their transforming action as much as possible. The integrity of the accusation is the sign of this transformation that Love brings about: everything is handed over, so that everything is forgiven.
The third and final expression is: to correspond to Love . Abandonment and letting oneself be transformed by Love have as a necessary consequence a correspondence to the love received. The Christian always has in mind that word of St. James: "Show me your faith without works, and I will show you my faith with my works" (2:18). The real desire for conversion becomes concrete in the correspondence to the love of God received and accepted. It is a correspondence that manifests itself in the change of life and in the works of mercy that follow. Whoever has been welcomed by Love cannot fail to welcome his brother. Whoever has abandoned himself to Love cannot but console the afflicted. Who has been forgiven by God, cannot but forgive his brothers from the heart.
If it is true that we will never be able to fully correspond to divine Love, due to the unbridgeable difference between the Creator and creatures, it is equally true that God indicates to us a possible love, in which to live this impossible correspondence: love for the brother. . Love for the brother is the place of real correspondence to the love of God: by loving the brothers we show ourselves, the world and God that we really love him and we correspond, always in an inadequate way, to his mercy. The good confessor always indicates, alongside the primacy of God's love, the indispensable love for one's neighbor, as a daily training ground in which to train love for God. The current resolution not to commit sin again is the sign of the will to correspond to Love. And many times people, even ourselves, are ashamed of having promised, to commit the sin and come back another time, another time ... I am reminded of a poem by an Argentine parish priest, good, a good parish priest, very good. He was a poet, he wrote many books. A poem to the Madonna, in which he asked the Madonna, in the poem, to keep him, because he would have liked to change but did not know how. He made her a promise to change, to Our Lady, and ended like this: “Tonight, Lady, the promise is sincere. But just in case, leave me the key on the outside of the door. [“Esta tarde, Señora, la promesa es sincera. Por las dudas, no olvide dejar la llave afuera "]. He knew that there will always be the key to open it, because it was God, the tenderness of God, who left it out. Thus, the frequent celebration of the sacrament of Reconciliation becomes, for both the penitent and the confessor,
Dear brothers, let us always remember that each of us is a forgiven sinner - if one of us does not feel this way, better not to go to confession, better not to be a confessor - a forgiven sinner, placed at the service of others, because also they, through the sacramental encounter, may encounter that Love which has fascinated and changed our life. With this awareness, I encourage you to persevere faithfully in the precious ministry that you carry out, or that will soon be entrusted to you: it is an important service for the sanctification of the holy people of God. Entrust this ministry of reconciliation to the powerful protection of Saint Joseph, a man. just and faithful.
And here I would like to pause to emphasize the religious attitudewhich arises from this awareness of being a forgiven sinner that the confessor must have. To welcome in peace, to welcome with paternity. Everyone will know what the expression of fatherhood is like: a smile, peaceful eyes… Welcome by offering tranquility, and then let them speak. Sometimes, the confessor realizes that there is a certain difficulty in moving forward with a sin, but if he understands it, he does not ask indiscreet questions. I learned one thing from Cardinal Piacenza: he told me that when he sees that these people have difficulties and you understand what it is, he immediately stops them and says: “I understand. Go on". Don't give more pain, more "torture" in this. Besides, please don't ask questions. Sometimes I ask myself: those confessors who begin: “And like this, this, this…”. But tell me what are you doing you? Are you making the movie in your mind? Please. Then, in the basilicas there is such a great opportunity to confess, but unfortunately the seminarians who are in international colleges pass the word, even the young priests: “In that basilica you can go to everyone except that and that; do not go to that confessional, because that will be the sheriff who will torture you ”. We pass, the voice ...
Being merciful doesn't mean you have a big sleeve, no. It means being a brother, a father, a comforter. “Father, I can't do it, I don't know how I'll do it…” - “You pray, and come back whenever you need, because here you will find a father, a brother, you will find this”. This is the attitude. Please don't do the academic exam court: “And how, when…”. Don't be nosy in the souls of others. Fathers, merciful brothers.
As I leave you these points for reflection, I wish you and your penitents a fruitful Lent of conversion. I bless you from my heart, and I ask you to please pray for me. Thank you!