What is the Sacrament of reconciliation?
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the most unique and beautiful characteristics of the Catholic faith. Jesus Christ established the Sacrament of Confession so that whoever sins can obtain unconditional forgiveness of sins, reconcile with God, the Church, and the community. This sacrament, through the grace of God, washes us clean and renews us in Christ. After the resurrection, Jesus said to His Apostles, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” John 20:21-23.
Reconciliation calls for an examination of conscience
The penitent is encouraged to make a careful examination of conscience through a contrite heart after being motivated by love for God and determination not to sin again. Confession consists of stating one’s sins before the priest and accepting satisfaction which includes carrying out certain acts of penance which the confessor imposes upon the penitent to repair the damage caused by sin. This spiritual exercise assists one to read personal life plainly identifying moments that have led one stray. Committing sin is a very serious matter because it can destroy life, mess up relationships, cause sickness, and provoke irreversible poverty. Sin steals everything silently. When we examine our conscience we acknowledge our weakness and allow God to recreate us since sin leaves us disfigured.
Penance is indispensable even after baptism
The Sacrament of Baptism makes us children of God but does not stop human inclination to sin which is known as concupiscence. Christ instituted this sacrament of forgiveness so that all baptized who have been separated from him by sin are given another chance. The parable of the prodigal son demonstrates this cf. Luke 15:11-32. On the evening of Easter Jesus invoked the Holy Spirit on his apostles and said “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” John 20:22-23. Through this sacrament, consistent conversion continues to resound in the lives of the baptized.
Penance begins from the heart of every person
To be holy is a tall invitation but by God’s grace, it is possible. The reason why we recognize countless saints in the Church is that many people have been willing to seek forgiveness. Even if the temptation is so strong; God’s mercy is better and reliable. Jesus says “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” Luke 5:32. God unceasingly welcomes anyone who sincerely repents and acknowledges going astray. A contrite heart reduces sin to nothing as the penitent starts experiencing a radical transformation!
Penance can be expressed in various ways
Penance is done through fasting, prayer, and acts of mercy most especially almsgiving. This self-mortification for reasonable purpose can be practiced anytime but most particularly during Lent, specific novenas, and on fasting Fridays. When we repent freely we receive absolution from the priest who in the name of Jesus grants forgiveness and determines satisfaction.
Sins must be confessed
Sin may be grave/mortal or venial, yet is better to confess it since this is the ordinary way to obtain forgiveness. Confession is not for children who are below the age of reason even when it is clear that they may have mess up as they need to be corrected. Only those who have reached the age of discretion are bound to confess their sins before receiving Holy Communion and minimally at least once a year. Confession helps in forming a correct conscience.
The minister of Penance
Bishops and priests are by powers entrusted to them instruments of the mercy and justice of God. They exercise their power of forgiving sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Though absolution all sins apart from those punishable by ex-communication thus reserved to the Apostolic See or to those who are authorized. The grace is that any priest can absolve a person who is in danger of death. Every confessor is bound by confession secrecy. Given the delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to people every confessor, without any exception and under very severe penalties, is bound to maintain the sacramental seal which means absolute secrecy about the sins revealed to him in confession.
Effects of the sacrament of penance
Confession grants reconciliation, the forgiveness of sins; reconciliation with the Church; recovery of the state of grace, remission of the eternal punishment merited by mortal sins, and remission of the temporal punishment. Once one is forgiven he/she enjoys peace, the serenity of conscience, and spiritual consolation. Though not encouraged, this sacrament can be celebrated in some cases through general confession and absolution but only in cases of serious necessity like imminent danger of death as long as the norms of the Church are observed and there is the intention of individually confessing one’s grave sins in due time.
Reconciliation grants indulgences
Indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt is consistent even after confessing them. The faithful Christian who are duly disposed gains the indulgence under prescribed conditions for either themselves or the departed. For example when a Christian detonates an atomic bomb and lives generations sad; the only indulgence granted periodically after a holy pilgrimage and prolonged penance is when one is forgiven. Indulgences are received through the Pope, Holy See, and College of Bishops who are the dispensers of the grace of redemption allowed to distribute the treasury of the merits of Christ and the Saints.
Fr. Paulino Mondo