Why Go to Confession? (Part 4)
Pastoral Letter of Archbishop Bruno Forte
CHIETI, Italy, FEB. 24, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is the last part of a pastoral letter written by Archbishop Bruno Forte of Chieti-Vasto, a member of the International Theological Commission, on the theme "Reconciliation and the Beauty of God."
Part 3 appeared Wednesday.
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8. Encounter with Christ, Dead and Risen for Us
In relation to the Son, the sacrament of Reconciliation offers us the joy of the encounter with Him, the crucified and risen Lord, who through His Pasch, gives us the new life, infusing His Spirit in our hearts. This encounter takes place through the itinerary that leads each one of us to confess our faults with humility and sorrow for our sins, and to receive forgiveness with gratitude full of wonder.
United to Jesus in His death and on the Cross, we die to sin and to the old man that has triumphed in Him. His blood shed for us reconciles us with God and with others, demolishing the wall of enmity that keeps us prisoners of our solitude without hope and without love. The force of His resurrection reaches us and transforms us; the Risen One touches our heart, makes it burn in us with new faith, which opens our eyes and makes us able to recognize Him beside us and His voice in which there is need of us.
All our life of sinners, united to Christ crucified and risen, is offered to the mercy of God to be healed of anguish, freed from the weight of guilt, confirmed in the gifts of God and renewed in the power of His victorious love. Liberated by the Lord Jesus, we are called to live like Him, in freedom from fear, guilt and the seductions of evil, to accomplish works of truth, justice and peace.
9. New Life in the Spirit
Thanks to the gift of the Spirit that diffuses in us the love of God (cf. Romans 5:5), the sacrament of Reconciliation is source of new life, renewed communion with God and with the Church, of which, in fact, the Spirit is the soul and the force of cohesion.
It is the Spirit that drives the forgiven sinner to express in life the peace received, accepting above all the consequences of the fault committed and the so-called punishment, which is like the effect of the sickness represented by sin and which must be regarded as a wound to be healed with the oil of grace and the patience of love that we must have toward ourselves.
The Spirit then helps us to mature the firm intention to undertake a journey of conversion consisting of concrete commitments of charity and prayer: the penitential sign required by the confessor serves precisely to express this choice. The new life to which we are thus reborn, can show more than anything else the beauty and the force of forgiveness invoked and received always anew ("forgiveness" means precisely renewed gift: to forgive is to give infinitely!).
I ask you, then, why do without such a great gift? Draw near to Confession with a humble and contrite heart and live it with faith: It will change your life and give peace to your heart. Then your eyes will open to recognize the signs of the beauty of God present in creation and in history and from your soul will rise a song of praise.
And also to you, priest, who read me and like me are a minister of forgiveness, I would like to address an invitation that springs from my heart: Be always willing -- in season and out of season -- to proclaim mercy to all and to grant forgiveness to him who asks it of you and of which he has need to live and to die. For that person, it might be the hour of God in his life!
10. Let Us Be Reconciled with God
Thus the invitation of the Apostle Paul becomes mine also: I express it by making use of two different voices.
The first is that of Friedrich Nietzsche, who in his youthful years wrote these impassioned words, sign of the need of divine mercy that we all bear within. "Once again, before leaving and turning my gaze on High, remaining alone, I raise my hands to You, in whom I take refuge, to whom from the depth of my heart I have consecrated altars, so that every hour your voice will call me again … I want to know You. You, the Unknown, that you penetrate the depth of my soul and, like a tempest, shake my life. You who are elusive and yet similar to me! I wish to know you, and also to serve you" ("Scritti Giovanili," I, 1, Milan, 1998, p. 388).
The other voice is that attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, who expresses the truth of a renewed life by the grace of forgiveness: "Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace: Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love." These are the fruits of Reconciliation, invoked and heard by God, that I wish all of you who read me. With this wish, which becomes prayer, I embrace and bless each one of you.
+ Bruno, Your Father in faith
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Confession, Mass, Forte, Forgive, Reconciliation
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