At his first General Audience of the new year, Pope Francis talks about the importance of the penitential rite in preparation for the Holy Eucharist
Presumptous heart cannot receive pardon
We acknowledge before God and before our brothers and sisters that we are all sinners, he said. A presumptuous heart, full of its own importance, is incapable of receiving God’s pardon, he continued, just as we know from experience that only by recognising our faults and asking for forgiveness can we pardoned by other people.
Personal confession in community context
We make our confession as a community, the Pope said, yet each of us speaks personally, striking our breast and recognising that we are unworthy of the gift of God’s mercy. We confess that we have sinned in thought and word and deed, he said, because it is not enough to do no harm to others. Instead, we must choose to do good and bear witness to others that we are disciples of Christ.
Our Lady, angels and saints sustain us
Pope Francis said it is hard for us to admit our own shortcomings but we must learn to confess them sincerely instead of accusing others of wrongdoing. After confessing our sins, we ask for the intercession of Our Lady, the angels and all the saints to sustain us on the path to holiness and conversion.
Transforming power of God’s grace
The Pope mentioned other forms of the penitential rite, such as the singing of the ancient Greek Kyrie eléison, or the blessing and sprinkling of water to remind us of our Baptism.
In this way, the Pope concluded, we join the great tradition of biblical figures – like David, the Prodigal Son, Zaccheus and Saint Peter – who, conscious of their sins, acknowledged them before God with confidence in the transforming power of his grace
Pope’s General Audience of 3 January 2018: Full text
Dear brothers and sisters:
In our catechesis on the Holy Eucharist, today we consider the penitential rite. To prepare ourselves to celebrate worthily the sacred mysteries, we acknowledge, before God and our brothers and sisters, that we have sinned. Significantly, we make this confession as a community, yet in the Confiteor each of us speaks personally: “I confess… that I have sinned.”
Like the humble publican in Jesus’ parable, we strike our breast and recognize that we are unworthy of the gift of God’s mercy and forgiveness. We then beg the intercession of Our Lady and all the angels and saints to sustain us on the path of holiness and conversion. The priest then pronounces the absolution – “May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life”. Unlike the absolution granted in confession, this does not remit mortal sin, yet it expresses our trust in God’s promise of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Biblical reference: 1Corinti 10, 15-17
I speak as to sensible men; judge for yourselves what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.