(17) Had we begun the reading of Pope Francis’ document when he officially began The Year of Jubilee, we would have found this segment to be more timelyfor Lent. But reading it now makes it no less important, given his emphasis upon the crucial connection between the ministry of mercy and the role of confessors.
Simply put, Pope Francis recognizes that good confessors are necessary if the ministry of mercy is to exist. This is probably obvious to Roman Catholics, who go to Confession regularly. For those of us in other Christian traditions, we need to read the Pope’s words recognizing their truth in a less formal, but equally significant way.
In the broader sense (but within the Roman sense too) good confessors are first and foremost those who live in the love of God as ones who have themselves received God’s mercy. We are more likely to give what we have received–and all the more if what we have received has had a profound effect upon us. When confessors have themselves received mercy, they are “safe places” where we do not need to be afraid of how they will receive us when we go to them in our need.
This means that good confessors are disposed (before we ever show up) to emphasize reconciliation. Because of grace, good confessors are restorative, not retributive. Their defining word is “Welcome!” not “Warning!” In the Roman Church this is expressed through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and Pope Francis urges that it be used lavishly. For the rest of us, we must see that reconciliation is sacramental in its nature and propensity to forgive even when we are “a long way from home” (e.g. Luke 15:20).
In being good confessors, we become signs of God, revealing God, as we say in the liturgy, “Whose property is always to have mercy.”
[Note: the numbers at the beginning of each meditation correspond to the section of the Pope’s document on which it is based]