Evangelizing through confessionIn 2014 the newly founded Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization had the idea of asking a Church in various dioceses to remain open for a full 24 hours, encouraging passers by to come in and pray and receive Sacramental Confession. Pope Francis was informed of the initiative which he supported with great enthusiasm and himself set the ball rolling in St Peter's in Rome with a communal Penitential celebration.
This connection of repentance and evangelization is as old as the Gospel itself, Jesus's very first words in the Gospel of Mark are "repent and believe in the Gospel" and the order is significant. Unless we see that we are in need of God's mercy we cannot welcome His message. The Holy Father's own vocation was intimately connected to a particular confession he had at the age of 16 with a holy priest named Fr Duarte.
The Seed of the Jubilee Year of MercyIn his homily three years ago at that Penitential service we can see the beginning of the idea both of the Jubilee Year of Mercy and the Missionaries of Mercy.
"Dear brothers and sisters, after this celebration, many of you will be made missionaries to offer to others the experience of reconciliation with God. “24 hours for the Lord” is an initiative to which many dioceses have adhered in every part of the world. To the many you will meet, you can communicate the joy of receiving the forgiveness of the Father and of rediscovering full friendship with him. And you will tell them that our Father expects us, our Father forgives us, and furthermore that he rejoices." (Pope Francis 28 March 2014)
24 Hours for the Lord 2016In this Jubilee Year Pope Francis has expanded the initiative to every diocese in the Universal Church and encouraged everyone especially the young to use it as a moment of repentance, prayer and discovery.
"The initiative of “24 Hours for the Lord,” to be celebrated on the Friday and Saturday preceding the Fourth Week of Lent, should be implemented in every diocese. So many people, including young people, are returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation; through this experience they are rediscovering a path back to the Lord, living a moment of intense prayer and finding meaning in their lives."(Misericordiae Vultus n. 17)
So from Friday 4th to Saturday 5th March we are all invited to take part in the third '24 hours for the Lord'. Find out where it's happening in your diocese, pray! Go to confession! Invite someone who hasn't been for a while.
In the words of the Holy Father "Let us place the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the centre once more in such a way that it will enable people to touch the grandeur of God’s mercy with their own hands. For every penitent, it will be a source of true interior peace."