Confession Sustains Christian Life, Says Pontiff

Notes It's More Than a Mere Formality

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 7, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Confession must not be a mere formality in a Christian's life, but rather an essential ingredient to nourish and sustain a commitment to follow Christ, says Benedict XVI



The Pope said this today upon receiving the participants in a course taking place this week on the "internal forum" -- questions of conscience -- organized by the tribunal of the Apostolic Penitentiary. The seminar ends Saturday.

In his remarks, the Holy Father reflected on sacrament of penance in today's society, which he said is "is losing the notion of sin."

"What is needed today is to ensure that people who confess experience that divine tenderness for penitent sinners which so many Gospel episodes express with intense emotion," said the Pontiff.

Referring to the episode of the sinful woman in the Gospel of Luke, he highlighted "the eloquent message that emerges from this Gospel passage: To those who love much God forgives everything.

"Those who trust in themselves and in their own merits are, as it were, blinded by their own 'I' and their hearts harden in sin.

"On the other hand, those who recognize themselves as weak and sinful entrust themselves to God and from him obtain grace and forgiveness."

Benefits

"What is most important," Benedict XVI said, "is to make it clear that in the sacrament of penance -- whatever the sin committed -- if sinners recognize it humbly and entrust themselves to the priest confessor, they will always experience the soothing joy of God's forgiveness."

Noting how there currently exists "a certain disaffection" with the sacrament, the Pope indicated that "when we insist only on the accusation of sin -- although this must exist, and it is necessary to help the faithful understand its importance -- we run the risk of relegating to second place what is, in fact, essential, in other words the personal meeting with God, Father of goodness and mercy."

Pastors, and especially confessors, he said, must "emphasize the close link between the sacrament of penance and an existence decisively oriented toward conversion," so that "the grace of the sacrament may support and nourish the commitment to be faithful disciples of the Lord."

"If this incessant longing is lost," affirmed Benedict XVI, "the celebration of this sacrament unfortunately risks becoming a formality which does not penetrate the fabric of everyday life."

"On the other hand," he added, "if people -- though animated by a desire to follow Jesus -- do not confess regularly, little by little they risk slowing spiritual rhythm until it weakens and perhaps even stops."