Pope Francis says "God awaits us there...when, with such humility, we go to ask for forgiveness in the sacrament of Confession..." FULL TEXT + Video at "24 hours for the Lord"

 Penitential celebration presided over by the Holy Father Francis in the parish of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Trionfale, 03.17.2023
This afternoon, in the parish of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Trionfale, the Holy Father Francis presided over a Penitential Liturgy for the Reconciliation of several penitents with individual confession and absolution.

The celebration opened the Lenten initiative "24 hours for the Lord", promoted by the Dicastery for Evangelization. Also this year the event will be celebrated in dioceses around the world, on 17 and 18 March 2023, on the eve of the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Sunday "in Laetare".
We publish below the homily that the Pope delivered during the Penitential Celebration:
Homily of the Holy Father
"These things, which were gains to me, I counted loss for Christ's sake" (Phil 3:7). Thus declares St. Paul in the first reading we have heard.

And if we ask ourselves what are the things that he no longer considered fundamental in his life, even happy to lose them in order to find Christ, we realize that we are not dealing with material realities, but with "religious riches". That's right: he was a pious man, a zealous man, a faithful and observant Pharisee (cf. vv. 5-6). And yet, this religious habit, which could constitute a merit, a boast, a sacred wealth, was actually an impediment for him. And then Paul affirms: "I have given up all these things and consider them rubbish, to gain Christ" (v. 8). Everything that had given him a certain prestige, a certain fame...; “forget it: for me, Christ is more important”.
Those who are too rich in themselves and in their own religious "bravura" presume to be just and better than the others - how many times does this happen in the parish: "I am from Catholic Action, I go to help the priest, I collect..., me, me, me”, how many times does it happen that one believes oneself to be better than the others; each one, in his own heart, think if this has sometimes happened – whoever does this lets himself be satisfied by the fact that he has kept up appearances; he feels at ease, but in this way he cannot make room for God because he does not feel the need for Him. And many times the "clean Catholics", those who feel righteous because they go to the parish, because they go to Mass on Sunday and boast of being righteous: "No, I don't need anything, the Lord has saved me". What happened? That the place of God has occupied him with his own "I" and then, even if he recites prayers and performs sacred actions, he does not really dialogue with the Lord. They are monologues that he does, not dialogue, not prayer. Therefore Scripture reminds us that only "the prayer of the poor passes through the clouds" (Sir 35:21), because only those who are poor in spirit, those who feel in need of salvation and beggar of grace, present themselves before God without exhibiting merits, without pretensions, without presumption: he has nothing and therefore he finds everything, because he finds the Lord.
Jesus offers us this teaching in the parable we have heard (cf. Lk 18:9-14). It is the story of two men, a Pharisee and a publican, who both go to the temple to pray, but only one reaches the heart of God. Before what they do, it is their physical attitude that speaks: the Gospel says that the Pharisee he prayed «standing up» (v. 11), with his forehead raised, while the tax collector, «stopping at a distance, did not even dare to lift his eyes to heaven» (v. 13), out of shame. Let us reflect for a moment on these two postures.
The Pharisee stands. He is self-confident, erect and triumphant like one who is to be admired for his prowess, like a model. In this attitude he prays to God, but in reality he celebrates himself: I attend the temple, I observe the precepts, I offer alms... Formally his prayer is impeccable, outwardly he sees himself as a pious and devout man, but, instead of opening up to God by bringing him the truth of the heart, he masks his weaknesses in hypocrisy. And many times we make up our lives. This Pharisee does not expect the Lord's salvation as a gift, but almost expects it as a reward for his merits. "I've done my homework, now give me the prize." This man advances without hesitation towards the altar of God - with raised forehead - to take his place, in the front row, but ends up going too far and placing himself before God!
Instead the other, the tax collector, stays at a distance. He doesn't try to make his way, he stays at the bottom. But precisely that distance, which manifests his being a sinner with respect to the holiness of God, is what allows him to experience the blessing and merciful embrace of the Father. God can reach him precisely because, by remaining at a distance, that man has made room for him. He doesn't talk about himself, he talks asking for forgiveness, he talks looking to God. How true this is also for our family, social and ecclesial relationships. There is true dialogue when we know how to keep a space between ourselves and the others, a healthy space that allows everyone to breathe without being sucked in or cancelled. Then that dialogue, that meeting can shorten the distance and create closeness. This also happens in the life of that publican: stopping at the back of the temple, he truly recognizes himself as he is, a sinner, in front of God: distant, and in this way he allows God to draw close to him.
Brothers, sisters, let's remember this: the Lord comes to us when we distance ourselves from our presumptuous selves. We think, “Am I conceited? Do I believe myself better than others? Do I look at someone a little with contempt? “I thank you, Lord, because you saved me and I'm not like these people who don't understand anything, I go to church, I go to Mass; I am married, married in church, these are divorced sinners…”: is your heart like this? You will go to hell. To get closer to God, we must say to the Lord: “I am the first of sinners, and if I have not fallen into the greatest filth it is because your mercy has taken me by the hand. Thanks to You, Lord, I am alive, thanks to You, Lord, I have not destroyed myself with sin". God can shorten the distance with us when we honestly, without pretense, bring our fragility to him. He extends his hand to get us back up when we know how to "touch rock bottom" and we trust him in sincerity of heart. God is like this: he awaits us in the depths, because in Jesus he wanted to "go to the depths", because he is not afraid to go down into the depths that inhabit us, to touch the wounds of our flesh, to welcome our poverty, to welcome the failures of life, the mistakes we make out of weakness or negligence, and we've all made them. God awaits us there, deep down, he awaits us especially when, with such humility, we go to ask for forgiveness in the sacrament of Confession, as we will do today. He is waiting for us there.
Brothers and sisters, let each of us examine our conscience today, because the Pharisee and the publican both live within us. Let us not hide behind the hypocrisy of appearances, but trustfully entrust our opacities and our errors to the mercy of the Lord. Let's think about our mistakes, our miseries, even those that out of shame we are unable to share, and that's fine, but with God they must show themselves. When we confess, we put ourselves in the background, like the tax collector, to recognize the distance that separates us between what God has dreamed of for our lives and what we really are every day: poor souls. And, in that moment, the Lord comes close, shortens the distances and puts us back on our feet; in that moment, while we recognize ourselves undressed, He dresses us in the party dress. And this is, and must be, the sacrament of Reconciliation: a festive encounter, which heals the heart and leaves peace within; not a human court to be afraid of, but a divine embrace to be consoled by.
One of the most beautiful things about how God welcomes us is the tenderness of the embrace he gives us. If we read of when the prodigal son returns home (cf. Lk 15:20-22) and begins to speak, the father does not let him speak, he embraces him and he is unable to speak. The merciful hug. And here I turn to my brother confessors: please, brothers, forgive everything, always forgive, without putting your finger too much on consciences; let people say things about him and you receive this like Jesus, with the caress of your gaze, with the silence of your understanding. Please, the Sacrament of Confession is not to torture, but to give peace. Forgive everything, as God will forgive you everything. Everything, everything, everything.
In this Lenten season, with contrition of heart, we too whisper like the publican: "O God, have mercy on me, a sinner" (v. 13). Let's do it together: O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. God, when I forget You or neglect You, when I put my words and those of the world before Your Word, when I presume to be righteous and despise others, when I gossip about others, O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. When I don't take care of those around me, when I'm indifferent to those who are poor and suffering, weak or marginalized, O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. For the sins against life, for the bad testimony that soils the beautiful face of Mother Church, for the sins against creation, O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. For my falsehoods, my dishonesty, my lack of transparency and legality, O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. For my hidden sins, those that no one knows about, for the evil that even without realizing I have caused others, for the good that I could have done and did not do, O God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
In silence, let us repeat for a few moments, with a repentant and trusting heart: O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. In silence. Let everyone repeat it in his heart. O God, have mercy on me, a sinner. In this act of repentance and trust, we will open ourselves to the joy of the greatest gift: God's mercy.
Translation from Italian: https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2023/03/17/0207/00443.html with Screenshot from Vatican Media