A heart filled with scorn, vain presumption is a ticket to hell, pope says at Lenten penance service
March 28, 2023
Pope Francis hears confession during a Lenten penance service March 17, 2023, in the Rome parish of St. Mary of Graces at Trionfale. The service marked the start of the worldwide celebration of "24 Hours for the Lord," a period when at least one church in every diocese was invited to be open all night -- or at least for extended hours -- for confession and eucharistic adoration. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The faithful must set aside their egos and sense of superiority over others to make room for God and His tender mercy, Pope Francis said at a Lenten penance service.
“Only those who are poor in spirit and who are conscious of their need of salvation and forgiveness come into the presence of God,” he said March 17.
And those whose hearts are filled with haughty, self-righteous comparisons and judgment, “you will go to hell,” he said in his homily.
The pope led the penance service in a Rome parish, rather than St. Peter’s Basilica, to mark the start of the worldwide celebration of “24 Hours for the Lord,” a period when at least one church in every diocese was invited to be open all night — or at least for extended hours — for confession and Eucharistic Adoration.
The Rome parish the pope visited was St. Mary of Graces at Trionfale, the titular church of Joseph Cardinal Tobin of Newark, New Jersey. It also was the first parish in Rome he has visited since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.
After delivering his homily at the service, there was a moment of Eucharistic Adoration during which the congregation knelt, and the pope stood, head bowed, leaning on his cane. Customarily, the pope would have then gone to a confessional in St. Peter’s Basilica and kneeled in front of a priest to confess his sins.
However, this year with increased difficulty with his knee, he went to a quiet corner of the Rome parish church where there were two chairs, put on a purple stole and waited for each penitent to approach. He heard confessions for almost one hour.
Other priests were stationed in confessionals or elsewhere in the small church to hear confessions.
In his homily, the pope talked about the danger of being proud of one’s “religious accomplishments” and believing oneself better than others.
“They feel comfortable, but they have no room for God because they feel no need for him,” he said. Their prayer is more a series of “monologues” rather than sincere dialogue and prayer.
Such people may do good works, join church groups or help the parish and then expect a kind of “payback,” that is, a sense of righteousness or expectation of a “prize” that elevates them above those who don’t meet the same standards, he said.
“Brothers, sisters, let us remember this: The Lord comes to us when we step back from our presumptuous ego,” the pope said.