The initiative of “24 Hours for the Lord,” to be celebrated on the Friday and Saturday preceding the Fourth Week of Lent, should be implemented in every diocese.
The significance seems to me to be the two days prior to when the parable of the father and two sons is proclaimed on that fourth Sunday.
A hope for penitents:
So many people, including the youth, are returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; through this experience they are rediscovering a path back to the Lord, living a moment of intense prayer and finding meaning in their lives. Let us place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the center once more in such a way that it will enable people to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands. For every penitent, it will be a source of true interior peace.
An instruction for clergy:
I will never tire of insisting that confessors be authentic signs of the Father’s mercy. We do not become good confessors automatically. We become good confessors when, above all, we allow ourselves to be penitents in search of his mercy.
Authenticity includes the personal experience of being a penitent. The search for mercy implies a pilgrimage of sorts. That participation, that status as a companion increases the credibility and fruitfulness of the ministry of confessor.
Let us never forget that to be confessors means to participate in the very mission of Jesus to be a concrete sign of the constancy of divine love that pardons and saves. We priests have received the gift of the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins, and we are responsible for this. None of us wields power over this Sacrament; rather, we are faithful servants of God’s mercy through it.
The ministry is one of persistence, not power.
Every confessor must accept the faithful as the father in the parable of the prodigal son: a father who runs out to meet his son despite the fact that he has squandered away his inheritance. Confessors are called to embrace the repentant son who comes back home and to express the joy of having him back again.
The confessor’s role with the unrepentant son:
Let us never tire of also going out to the other son who stands outside, incapable of rejoicing, in order to explain to him that his judgment is severe and unjust and meaningless in light of the father’s boundless mercy.
What do you make of this advice:
May confessors not ask useless questions, but like the father in the parable, interrupt the speech prepared ahead of time by the prodigal son, so that confessors will learn to accept the plea for help and mercy gushing from the heart of every penitent. In short, confessors are called to be a sign of the primacy of mercy always, everywhere, and in every situation, no matter what.
What constitutes useless questioning? Requests for exact counts? Juicy particulars? Confessors realize that they gain or lose reputations for the degree they embrace mercy and show it. Children and teens especially are able to sniff out when a certain boundary is crossed. And those situations are extremely unfortunate, as the luster of the sacrament is often tarnished for a number of people. I’m inclined to think poor confessors may contribute to the current situation with penance as much or more than the supposed loss of a sense of sin.
The highlighted text is © copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana. You can find the document in its entirety on the Vatican website here.