Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Sacrament of Reconciliation (Penance, Confession, Forgiveness)


On Thursday, our 2nd graders received their First Reconciliation. Beforehand, we invited the families into our parish hall for some last minute preparation. In order to help them better understand Reconciliation, I distributed flyers with the information below and gave an oral presentation on the information. I've edited a little bit since then, but this post is pretty much what we gave them:


God wants each of us to be in a good relationship with Him and with other people. When I sin, I hurt those relationships. Every time I do something bad, I offend other people. More importantly, I offend God, whom I should love above everything. Small sins (venial sins) offend those relationships and they hurt my soul. Serious sins (mortal sins) completely separate me from God, break my relationships with others, and seriously damage my soul.

By human power alone, these broken relationships cannot be re-established--we can't just say we're sorry to heal the whole relationship; it isn't sufficient (that's how great the effect of our sins is). To fix this, God took on human flesh and became a man. He taught, healed people, and forgave people’s sins. Ultimately, He offered His life to cancel the debt of all our sins and to reconcile us to Himself--that's how much He loves us and wants us to be in a good relationship with Him.



Jesus gave us sacraments to apply His crucifixion to us, so that EVERY person could be forgiven. Baptism forgives Original Sin (the sin we inherit from Adam & Eve) AND it forgives any actual sins we have committed up to that point.
  • "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." [Matthew 28:19-20]
  • "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins" [Acts 2:38]
Baptism forgives sins, but someone can only be baptized once--as the creed states, “we believe in ONE baptism.” If someone commits sins after he has been baptized, he cannot be baptized again to be forgiven for those sins.

To forgive sins after Baptism, Jesus gave us the sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus gave His priests the authority to forgive sins in His name. During confession, Jesus forgives us through His priest. Jesus works through His priests. When we go to Confession, we're actually confessing to God through the priest.

  • "The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins." [Matthew 9:6]
  • "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." [John 20:21]
  • "They glorified God, who had given such authority to men." [Matthew 9:8]
  • "He breathed on [the apostles], and said to them, '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 20:22-23]
  • "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness." [1 John 1:9]
  • "God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation . . ." [2 Corinthians 5:18]
  • "Confess your sins to one another . . ." [James 5:16]
  • "Many also of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices." [Acts 19:18]
To restore each of our relationships with Him, God has given us the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

It only takes one good confession to completely wipe away the guilt of my sins and restore me to a perfect relationship with God. No matter how sinful I've been, no matter how far away from God I am, no matter how long I've been away, it only takes one good confession to be back in proper relationship with Him--that's how strong the power of the Crucifixion is, and that power is applied to us through the sacraments.

In the prayer that Jesus taught us, we pray “forgive us our trespasses [sins] as we forgive those who trespass [sin] against us.” [Matthew 6:12] An integral part of being forgiven is forgiving other people. If we really want to be forgiven, we need to first forgive the people who have offended us. Forgiveness does not mean we say that their behavior was good; it means that we no longer hold a grudge against the person for having offended us.

Trying to stay in a great relationship with God,
- Casey

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