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Got “Catholic guilt”? It might actually be grace

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Do not be afraid of remorse, for it is a sign of salvation, says Pope Francis.

The reading from today’s Mass shows us Herod curious about Jesus and wanting to see the Lord. According to Pope Francis, this was not mere curiosity, but remorse in Herod’s soul and heart. Herod sought to see Jesus “to calm himself,” the Holy Father said during his homily today at Casa Santa Marta.

Jesus is eventually handed over by Herod to Pilate, which, according to the pope, was a way for the Jewish leader to squelch his guilt by covering “one crime with another” … like someone who “kills out of fear.”

But, guilt, suggested the pope in his homily, shouldn’t be covered over — not with further crime or in any other way.

Remorse is an “open wound,” he said, as reported by Vatican Radio, “which, when we have done something wrong in our life, pains us. But it is a hidden wound, unseen even by me, because I get used to carrying it around and anesthetizing it. […] I am not only aware of having done evil, but I also feel it in my body, in my soul, and in my life. And so I feel the temptation to cover it and not feel it anymore.”

But this remorse is a gift, the pope said. It is a “grace to feel our conscience accuse us.”

“We must, if I may say so, ‘baptize’ this open wound, that is, give it a name … And if you ask, ‘Father, how can I remove it?’ First of all, pray: ‘Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ And then examine your life … And ask someone to help you to identify the wound and to give it a name, saying, ‘I feel remorse because I did this concrete act.’ This is true humility before God.”

The pope said that identifying the cause of our guilt and remorse is necessary for healing, and that we should be simple and concrete in accusing ourselves of our sins, as a child in confession.

“We must learn the science and wisdom of accusing ourselves … I accuse myself, feel the pain caused by the wound, learn where it has come from, and then indict myself regarding it. Do not be afraid of remorse, for it is a sign of salvation,” he said.

Pope Francis invited everyone to pray for the grace “to have courage to accuse ourselves,” in order to journey along the path toward salvation.

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