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The grace of being ashamed

· The Pope's Mass at Santa Marta ·

In his homily this morning at Holy Mass,  Pope Francis preached about the sacrament of confession. Commenting on the first Reading of the day taken from St Paul's Letter to the Romans (7:18-25), he began by noting that after Paul experiences the liberation and recreation that is given us in the blood of Christ, he acknowledges that sin still dwells with him drawing him back into slavery.

Pope Francis noted: “yesterday Paul was proclaiming salvation in Jesus Christ through faith”. But today he is telling “his brothers in Rome about the battle he is waging within” Citing Paul, he continued: “I know that nothing good dwells within me, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells in me”.

Pope Francis called this “the Christian battle”; Paul speaks of it in this way: “when I want to do the good, evil is right beside me. In fact, I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of the mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members”. Pope Francis then observed that “we do not always have the courage to speaks about this battle as Paul speaks. We always seek to justify ourselves: 'But yes, we are all sinners' we say”.

It is against this disposition that we must battle. Indeed, Pope Francis continued, “if we do not recognize this we cannot obtain God's forgiveness, because if being a sinner is only a word or a way of speaking, then we do not need God's forgiveness. But if it is a reality that enslaves us, then we truly need the interior freedom and strength of the Lord”. Pope Francis then noted that Paul shows us the way out of this attitude: “Confess your sin and your tendency to sin to the community, do not hide it. This is the disposition which the Church asks of all of us, which Jesus asks of all of us: humbly to confess our sins”.

The Church in her wisdom points to the sacrament of confession. “Let us go to our brother, to our brother the priest, and let us make this interior confession: the same confession that Paul himself makes: 'I want the good, I would like to be better, but as you know, I sometimes experience this battle within, sometimes, there is this, that and the other ...”.

The Pontiff then spoke about those who refuse to speak with a priest under the pretence that they confess directly to God. “It's easy” he said. “It's like confessing by email … God is there, far away; I say things and there is no face to face, there is not face to face encounter”. But Paul “confessed his weakness to his brothers face to face”.

Referring to the Gospel canticle, Pope Francis then confided that he admires the way children make their confession. “In the alleluia we said: “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden the mysteries of the kingdom from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes”. The Pope continued, “Little ones have a certain wisdom. When a child comes to make his confession, he never speaks in generalities. He says: 'Father, I did this, and I did this to my aunt, I did this to someone else, and to someone else I said this word', and they say the word. They are real, they possess the simplicity of truth. And we always tend to hide the reality of our weakness and poverty”.

He then added: “But if there is one thing that is beautiful, it is when we confess our sins in the presence of God just as they are. We always feel the grace of being ashamed. To feel ashamed before God is a grace. It is a grace to say: 'I am ashamed'. Let us think about St Peter after Jesus' miracle on the lake: “Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinner”. He was ashamed of his sin in the presence of Jesus Christ”.

Going to confession, the Pope said, is “going to an encounter with the Lord who forgives us, who loves us. And our shame is what we offer him: 'Lord, I am a sinner, but I am not so bad, I am capable of feeling ashamed'.

The Holy Father concluded: “let us ask for the grace to live in the truth without hiding anything from the Lord and without hiding anything from ourselves”.

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