Make confession, works of mercy heart of Lent this year

| Bishop Andrew Cozzens | February 4, 2016

BishopCozzens“Let us not waste this season of Lent, so favorable a time for conversion!” Pope Francis declared in his Lenten message.

Have you entered into this Jubilee Year of Mercy yet? I know many of you have joined me in making regular pilgrimages to the Holy Door at the Cathedral to receive the graces guaranteed to us by praying for mercy for our whole archdiocese. It’s OK if you haven’t yet, because Lent offers us a profound opportunity to enter more deeply into this Year of Mercy.

Pope Francis said that he desires “the season of Lent in this Jubilee Year be lived more intensely as a privileged moment to celebrate and experience God’s mercy,” and he emphasized that this Lent invites us to draw closer to the love of Christ with our whole lives.

Pope Francis pointed out that the purpose of mercy is conversion. When God sees us in our sinfulness, he has compassion and draws near to us with his mercy, and invites us out of our sinful ways to begin to walk in his life and love and become more like him. Practically, we do this by practicing the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.

First and foremost, Lent is about our own conversion. Every day in prayer we hold up the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our own life like a mirror and recognize shortfalls. This is why I go to confession often. I am a sinner, and I fail to live the love of Jesus.

Confession and conversion

People ask me, “How often should I go to confession?” I always answer, “More often!” As we grow closer to Christ we see more of our sinfulness and we feel the need to be cleansed more often in this beautiful sacrament. The sacrament becomes a beautiful encounter with the depth of God’s love for us. If we stay away for a while, then we begin to feel that we don’t need it.

As Pope Francis says quite strongly in his Lenten message: “The real poor are revealed as those who refuse to see themselves as such. They consider themselves rich, but they are actually the poorest of the poor. This is because they are slaves to sin, which leads them to use wealth and power not for the service of God and others, but to stifle within their hearts the profound sense that they, too, are only poor beggars.”

Pope Francis has asked every diocese in the world to host 24 Hours for the Lord. He wants confessions available for 24 hours from March 4-5. As The Catholic Spirit announced in the last issue, we will be offering this beautiful sign of God’s mercy in both the Cathedral and the Basilica from noon Friday until noon Saturday.

Pope Francis encourages not only that we receive God’s mercy this Lent, but most especially that we practice mercy. He says, “In the corporal works of mercy we touch the flesh of Christ in our brothers and sisters who need to be fed, clothed, sheltered, visited; in the spiritual works of mercy — counsel, instruction, forgiveness, admonishment and prayer — we touch more directly our own sinfulness,” and “the corporal and spiritual works of mercy must never be separated,” because showing mercy is about conversion.

Pope Francis gives all of us two concrete resolutions this Lent: No. 1: Experience mercy through the sacrament of confession. No. 2: Show mercy through corporal and spiritual works of mercy. While it is good to give something up for Lent, and daily fasting is certainly a part of a good Lenten discipline, I encourage you and your family to go to confession and do some regular corporal and spiritual acts of mercy. Thus we will achieve Pope Francis’ desire for our Lenten journey — that we become merciful like our Father and not waste this time of conversion.

El corazón de la Cuaresma en este año, confesarse y hacer obras de misericordia

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Category: Only Jesus

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