Reconciliation shows us God’s boundless mercy Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Apr. 14, 2011 -- 12:00 AM

A college student wrote in her college newspaper that sometimes she wished that she were a Catholic. Then, like her Catholic friends, she could confess her sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Through the absolution of the priest, she would be assured of God’s forgiveness.

God’s merciful forgiveness is expressed in the words of absolution: “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and the resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

Hurts relationship with God

Our vocation is to love God with our heart, mind, and soul, and to love our neighbor as self. We represent Christ when we love in this Christ-like way.

Sin hurts our relationship with God and others. Instead of representing Christ, we misrepresent him.

St. Francis Xavier, the great missionary, said that one of the greatest obstacles to conversion of many in the Far East were the Christians who preceded him to various places to which he was sent. The sinful lives of many of these Christians negated the Gospel St. Francis was sent to preach.

Christ foresaw that we would sin. So he gave us the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

On Easter night Christ gave his apostles power to forgive sins through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

In John 20:22-3, Christ breathed on the apostles and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive, are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.”

When we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are assured of God’s forgiveness in the absolution. To receive this sacrament worthily, we need to prepare ourselves by taking certain steps.

Preparing for the sacrament

First, we should ask the Holy Spirit to help us to examine our conscience and take responsibility for our sins.

In no. 1454 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says, “The reception of this sacrament (of Reconciliation) ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God.”

Next, we must be sincerely sorry for our sins and realize that our sins hurt our relationship with God and others.

We make an act of perfect contrition when we are sorry because we have offended God whom we should love above all things.

In imperfect contrition we are sorry because we fear hell and other penalties threatening the sinner. Imperfect contrition disposes us to obtain forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Third, we should resolve to amend our life and sin no more.

In no. 1451 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says, “Among the penitent’s acts, contrition occupies first place. Contrition is “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.”

Confessing sins

Fourth, in no. 1456 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it says, “Confession to a priest is an essential part of the Sacrament of Penance: ‘All mortal sins of which penitents, after a diligent self-examination are conscious, must be recounted by them in confession. When Christ’s faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon.’”

In canon 989 of the Code of Canon Law, it says, “After having reached the age of discretion, each member of the faithful is obliged to confess faithfully his or her grave sins at least once a year.”

In no. 1458 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it says, “Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ, and progress in the life of the Spirit.”

Absolution

In no.1459 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church it says, “Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused. Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must ‘make satisfaction for’ or ‘expiate’ his sins. This satisfaction is also called “penance.’”

The absolution of the priest is the assurance that Christ has forgiven our sins and granted us “pardon and peace.”

The priest is the sign and the instrument of God’s merciful love for the penitent. He is the servant of God’s forgiveness.

Unlike the college student who wished that she could go to confession, we can receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

We are especially encouraged to do so during Lent.

Then, reconciled with God and each other, we can celebrate the good news of Easter with faith and joy.

Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus of the Diocese of Madison.