16 April 2010

The Holy Father's Words Regarding Penance

16 APRIL 2010. Yesterday morning the Holy Father celebrated mass with the Pontifical Biblical Commission and gave an unscripted homily which has been fairly widely reported on. In his homily, Benedict XVI touched on the objective of the mendicant spirit and the proper place and need for penance in our world. Here, in part, is the Holy Father's homily:
"[T]today we are often a little afraid to speak of eternal life. We speak of the things that are useful for the world, we show that Christianity can help improve the world but we dare not say that its goal is eternal life and that from that goal come the criteria of life."

He continued, that is why "we should instead have the courage, the joy, and the great hope that eternal life exists, which is the true life and that from this true life comes the light that also illuminates this world. From this point of view, 'penitence is a grace', a grace that we recognize our sins, that we can recognize that we need renewal, change, a transformation of our very being."

"I have to say that we Christians, also recently, have often avoided the word 'penitence', which seems too harsh. Now, before the attacks from the world that speak of our sins, we see that the power to be penitent is a grace and we see how it is necessary to make penance, to recognize what is wrong in our life. We must be open to forgiveness, prepare ourselves for forgiveness, let ourselves be transformed. The sorrow of penitence, of purification and transformation," he concluded, "is a grace because it is a renewal, the work of Divine Mercy."
What a wonderful call to the sacraments. What a wonderful call especially to the sacrament of reconciliation. With the truly penitential spirit, humbly submitting ourselves to the Lord and the community for reconciliation in complete reliance on the grace and mercy of the Lord, we receive a blessing. We receive renewal through the works of Divine Mercy. Not condemnation. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not come to condemn, but to save. And, so our Church, the bride of Christ, offers that gift of reconciliation, and the sure access to the grace of Divine Mercy, through the sacrament of confession.

While there may be pain, hurt, anxiety, embarrassment, and uneasiness in the moment of the confession, the truly penitential spirit will receive the grace of reconciliation that transcends all emotional trappings, and the blessing of renewal that transforms us who now relive our death to ourselves and to sin so that we might live in eternity with Christ, whom we praise and give glory.

And, too, at the heart of all service toward others is the transcendent goal of serving the Lord so that we might bring others and ourselves to life eternal with our God. As Blessed Mother Theresa was fond of saying, she was not involved in humanitarian work, but the work of the Gospel, spreading the good news to those most in need of it.

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