Cardinal: Words 'we all long to hear' lay in sacrament of reconciliation

IMAGE: CNS photo/James Ramos, Texas Catholic Herald

By Junno Arocho Esteves

HOUSTON (CNS) — In preparing
for Easter, many Catholic parishes worldwide opened their church doors for
extended hours for the sacrament of reconciliation with penance services on
Good Friday.

These services focus on helping
parishioners and public alike to more fully understand and experience the paschal
mystery of Christ’s victory over death, said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston

“During the season of Lent,” the
cardinal said, “we undertake many forms of penance: ashes on our heads on Ash
Wednesday, our fasting, abstinence, increased almsgiving as well as the unique
Lenten commitments we individually make.”

Fasting, abstinence and service
through almsgiving remain the basis for Lenten devotions.

“Yet much as the Lord exhorts us
through the prophet Joel to ‘rend your hearts, and not your garments’ (2:13),
our exterior penances mean little if they do not reflect interior conversion,”
said Cardinal DiNardo, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic

This repentance of heart, says
the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “is a radical reorientation of our whole
life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a
turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have

Cardinal DiNardo said, “In the
beautiful sacrament of reconciliation, this reality is realized most fully as
we take our particular sins and shortcomings before the Lord, longing for
freedom from slavery to sin and death.”

Focusing on Holy Week, he said: “What is done each year in the days leading to Easter is living
memory, a recapitulation, a retelling always new, of what Jesus has done and
always remains present. His death and resurrection always abide. We are the
ones who need this living retelling for our salvation and knowledge, for our
prayer, for our illumination, and for the meaning of our life.”

Cardinal DiNardo echoed recent
comments by Pope Francis, who said that the Lord does not want his flock to be
frightened in seeking forgiveness but to come to him “with an open heart”
because “it is the Father awaits us.”

“The Lord, the Father of mercies,”
the cardinal said, “speaks the words through the church and the ministry of the
priest that we all long to hear as he pronounces mercy, not condemnation, and
restores us to the fullness of life with Him.”

And while some may fear the
confessional, Cardinal DiNardo encouraged Catholics to see the light in the

“Where the darkness of death is
most thick and impenetrable, the light shines,” he said. “This is a mystery of
God’s love never to be fully understood, but always to be received with astonished
thanksgiving and praise. The various moments of Holy Week and its many
celebrations and liturgical activities are meant to proclaim this boundless

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Ramos is a staff writer and
designer for the Texas Catholic Herald, newspaper of the Archdiocese of

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