Pope Francis wrote, “First of all, the protagonist of the ministry of Reconciliation is the Holy Spirit. The forgiveness that the Sacrament confers is the new life transmitted by the Risen Lord through his Spirit: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:22-23). Therefore, you are called to be always “men of the Holy Spirit,” witnesses and heralds, happy and strong, of the Lord’s Resurrection. This witness is read on the face, it is heard in the voice of the priest who administers with faith and with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He receives the penitents not with the attitude of judge and even less so with that of a simple friend, but with the charity of God, with the love of a father who sees his son return and goes out to meet him, of the shepherd who has found the lost sheep. The priest’s heart is a heart that is able to be moved, not out of sentimentalism or mere emotiveness, but by the Lord’s “bowels of mercy!” If it is true that the tradition indicates to us the twofold role of doctor and judger for confessors, we must never forget that like a doctor he is called to heal and like judge to absolve.
Second aspect: if Reconciliation transmits the new life of the Risen One and renews baptismal grace, then your task is to give it generously to brothers — to give this grace. A priest who does not take care of this part of his ministry, be it in the quantity of time dedicated be it in the spiritual quality, is like a shepherd who does not take care of the sheep that are lost; he is like a father who forgets his lost son and neglects to help him. But mercy is the heart of the Gospel! Do not forget this: mercy is the heart of the Gospel! It is the Good News that God loves us, that He always loves sinful man, and with this love He attracts him to Himself and invites him to conversion. Let us not forget that for the faithful it is often an effort to approach the Sacrament, be it for practical reasons, be it because of the natural difficulty to confess to another man their sins. For this reason, it is necessary to work much on ourselves, on our humanity, so that we are never an obstacle but always foster the approach to mercy and forgiveness. However, it often happens that a person comes and says: “I haven’t been to confession for many years, I have had this problem, I left going to Confession because I met a priest and he said this to me,” and we see the imprudence, the lack of pastoral love, in what the person says. And they go away, because of a bad experience in their Confession. If there is a father’s attitude, which comes from God’s goodness, this will never happen.”
During this Lent the Church invite all of us to experience the sacrament of God’s Mercy in Confession. The Holy Spirit draws us to this sacrament. When we experience God’s Mercy we become people of the Holy Spirit. This experience of God’s Mercy is meant to show on our face. What happiness must have shown on the face of Mary Magdalene when see saw the Risen Lord on Easter Sunday. When we go to confession we are encountering the Risen Lord.
The priest is called to give the sacrament of confession with the unction of the Holy Spirit. We are also called to receive the sacrament of confession with the unction of the Holy Spirit. We read in the catechism, “Since Easter, the Holy Spirit has proved ‘the world wrong about sin.’…But this same Spirit who brings sins to light is also the Consoler who gives the human heart grace for repentance and conversion.” (1433)
Ask for the grace to experience what Mary Magdalene experienced on Easter Sunday. May our faces shine with the same glory of the Holy Spirit when we encounter the Risen Lord in Confession.