1 April 2019
The Penitential Act
I would like to make two observations about the penitential act at the beginning of the Mass when the priest leads the congregation to pray:
“I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.”
It is right and proper that we admit to God that we have sinned against him. This is the first essential step that leads to our reconciliation with him, as Scripture teaches: “He who conceals his sins will not prosper, but those who confess them will find mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
Obviously, anybody can repeat this prayer with his tongue, and even beat upon his breast, but in so doing it does not necessarily mean that he is truly repentant. Words may not be a sincere expression of the condition of the heart. God is not impressed with mere formality, but he will certainly not reject a contrite and broken heart.
It is interesting that in this prayer, after confessing his sins, the penitent turns his attention from God and appeals to Mary, the angels, the saints in heaven and upon earth, to pray to the Lord for him. There is nothing wrong to ask others to pray for you (at least as far as one is able to hear you). But this is certainly not enough. The sinner himself must appeal to God.
Since he is the guilty one, the penitent should personally ask God for divine mercy. Others may pray for him and on his behalf, but after all he, and he alone, is responsible to repent and appeal to the Lord to forgive him.
Not only so. He must turn to God. He shouldn’t turn neither to Mary, nor to the angels, nor to the saints, or to other believers. He must turn to God because his sins were committed against God and his holy Law. At the same time, the sinner is encouraged to turn to God because the Lord is good and merciful. In fact, God himself invites him to go to him for forgiveness.
“Let the wicked forsake his paths, and the man of sin his thoughts; and let him turn to the Lord, and he will be merciful to him; and to our God, for his is full of forgiveness” (Isaiah 55:7).
May today be the day when you sincerely admit to God, “I have sinned against you. I deserve nothing by your punishment. Please be merciful me.” God already knows the disposition of your heart and he is most willing to forgive you. The cross on which his Son bled and died is the ultimate proof of God’s love towards sinners. So please turn to God by faith and you will surely receive mercy and forgiveness.