On Wednesday Pope Francis emphasized how sin breaks our relationship with God and with our community, which is why at the beginning of every Mass we pause to recognize our sinfulness and ask for forgiveness.

“Sin severs: Severs the relationship with God and severs the relationship with our brothers, the relationship with family, with society, with the community: Sin always severs, separates, divides,” the Pope said Jan. 3.

The Penitential Rite, at the beginning of Mass, “favors the attitude with which to dispose oneself to worthily celebrate the holy mysteries, that is, recognizing our sins before God and our brothers, recognizing that we are sinners.”

Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the topic of the Mass, focusing on the part where we make a general confession, professing to God and brothers 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.”

He emphasized how we even confess to “omissions” in deed, which means the times we failed to do good.

“We often feel good because – let’s say – ‘I did not hurt anyone,’” the Pope said. “In reality, it is not enough not to harm our neighbor, we need to choose to do good, seizing the occasions for giving positive testimony that we are disciples of Jesus.”

When we pray the “Confiteor,” as it’s called, we confess to both God and our brothers and sisters that we are fellow sinners. And it helps us to understand how sin not only separates us from God, but also from our fellow human being.

Then, when we make the gesture of beating our breast, repeating the words “through my fault” three times, this also reminds us that we have sinned by our own responsibility and no one else’s.

Out of fear or shame, sometimes we want to accuse others for our sin, he said, but it is good to always confess our sins “with sincerity.”

After this confession of sin, Francis continued, we then turn to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints and angels to helps us on the path towards full communion with God, “when sin will be definitively annihilated.”

The Pope also mentioned a few other ways we make this penitential act at Mass, such as when we sing the Kyrie eléison, or when we have the sprinkling rite during the Easter season in the memory of our baptism.

He also pointed to the many examples of figures in Holy Scripture who, after having sinned, find the courage to open themselves to the grace and mercy of God, such as King David, the prodigal son, Zaccheus, and the Samaritan woman.  

“To measure ourselves with the fragility of the clay we are kneaded with is an experience that strengthens us,” he continued.

“While making us deal with our weakness, it opens our hearts to invoke the divine mercy that transforms and converts. And this is what we do in the penitential act at the beginning of the Mass.”

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