May 6, 2013

VATICAN CITY – Going to Confession isn't like heading off to be tortured or punished, nor is it like going to the dry cleaners to get out a stain, Pope Francis said in a morning Mass homily.

"It's an encounter with Jesus" who is patiently waiting "and takes us as we are," offering penitents his tender mercy and forgiveness, he said April 29.

Members of the Vatican's investment agency and a group of religious women joined the pope for Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, where the pope lives.

"God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all," the pope said, quoting from the First Letter of John.

While everyone experiences moments of darkness in life, the verse refers to the darkness of living in error, "being satisfied with oneself, being convinced of not needing salvation," he said.

As John continues, the pope said, "If we say, 'We are without sin,' we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

Even though it is embarrassing to admit to and tell the truth about one's thoughts and deeds, embarrassment or "shame is a true Christian and human virtue" linked to the traditional virtue of humility.

"Oftentimes we think that going to Confession is like going to the dry cleaners" to get out a stain, but it isn't, Pope Francis said.

"It's an encounter with Jesus" who "waits for us to forgive us" and offer salvation, he said.

The pope said Confession isn't like "going to a torture session" where Jesus "is waiting to lambast me."

Confession "is going to praise God, because I - the sinner - have been saved by him," who always waits and always forgives "with tenderness."

"We must never disguise ourselves before God," who "asks us to be humble and kind" and truthful.