The Sacrament of Penance

 

 

"God so loved the world He gave us His only begotten Son" as our Savior and Redeemer. In Jesus Christ God is constantly seeking us out as prodigal sons and daughters. We are by God's revealed word 'loved sinners' who should heed the call of our heavenly Daddy (ABBA); "Come back to me with all your heart". God in Jesus Christ yearns for our friendship, and longs to forgive us of that which separates us from His love and friendship - our sins.

 

After His Death and Resurrection Jesus appeared to the disciples in the upper room and He showed His love for us sinners. He said, 'Through my passion, death and resurrection I give you peace and the means to that peace. I give you the keys to the throne of God's mercy.' "Whose sins you shall forgive - they are forgiven, and whose sins you retain, they are retained". By His death on the cross He won forgiveness for us poor sinners. By His resurrection from that death He opened wide the path to peace through forgiveness of sin.

 

His singular command to His apostles was. "Go forth and preach the good news of salvation". For in Jesus Christ is now found forgiveness, reconciliation, and at-one-ment with your God.

 

Baptism is our first encounter with Christ's saving grace in which all our sins are forgiven. Afterwards, whenever we fall in our faithfulness to God's love - or love toward our neighbor; God continues to extend His embrace of mercy through a special sacrament called 'Confession' - 'Reconciliation' - 'Sacrament of Peace' or 'Sacrament of Penance'.

 

In this Sacrament God shows His thirst for our love and friendship; and He is more desirous of forgiving, reconciling. and our being at peace - than we are in our desire to be forgiven. God always takes the initiative in our relationship with Him - always! However, He respects our free choice to say 'yes' or 'no' to His love. God mourns our saying 'no' to Him; as would any human parent in dealing with a wayward child. God feels our 'no' infinitely so! God never says 'no' to our need for His love. His 'yes' to our desire for reconciliation and forgiveness, was and is written in His own blood on the cross.

 

Never, ever, for any reason - no matter how you see yourself as a sinner - no matter how far you have gone away from God does He withhold His love. There is no sin, or sins, or length of time that God's love cannot embrace. Why? - because, God's very name is love. There are no recriminations, no blaming, no guilt, no chastisement - only His divine embrace for a contrite heart on our part. (Read the parable of the prodigal son in chapter 15 of St. Luke's gospel)

 

The Catholic Catechism defines 'sin' as 'an offense against God as well as a fault against reason, truth and right conscience. Sin is a deliberate thought, word, deed or omission - contrary to the law of God. Sin damages or destroys my open relationship of love with God, but since I belong to the mystical Body of Christ (the Church) my sin also effects directly, adversely, the other members of that Body. So in confessing my sins I also seek forgiveness of the Body of Christ - the Church. In the Catholic Church I confess my sins to a priest; who through the Sacrament of Ordination, forgives me through the merits of the Dying and Rising of Jesus Christ our Savior. So in confession I receive forgiveness, reconciliation and peace with God and neighbor.

 

How to prepare for this wonderful Sacrament.

 

Be knowledgeable of how great, gracious, merciful, compassionate and loving our great God really is! Know His word of love revealed in the scriptures.

 

Examine your life against so great a love as found in His commandments, the eight Beatitudes, and the litmus test of what it means to be a faithful Christian as found in chapter 25 of St. Matthew's gospel. Check your Christian journey against the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. This exam is in itself a spiritual checkup; and gives us an honest look at where we are in our relationship with God and neighbor.

 

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you make an honest discernment of your spiritual journey with Christ. Now I ask myself "what do I say to God.?" What patterns or directions emerge? What needs to be stopped? What temptations or occasions or circumstances should I avoid that could or have led me away from God and His Church? What specific thoughts, words, deeds, omissions can I identify as those I need to confess as my sins?

 

Remember, the Holy Spirit is invited into this process. The Holy Spirit helps me to be fair, honest and sincere in my desire to know myself as God sees me. Now I am ready to say, "God, I come to you as an open book. I come in love, humility and with a contrite heart. Father, forgive me. These are my sins and I am sorry."

 

How beautiful, how great, how loving - we hear those wonderful words. "Courage my child your sins are forgiven, now go in the peace and love of God." What heart is there who could not, and would not jump and shout for joy - "Forever, I will give thanks to my God for He has forgiven me my sins, and now I live in His creative love!".

 

Remember, God is more desirous of forgiving us our sins; than we are, of having our sins forgiven! We have an unbelievable and loving God who is 'crazy' in love with us redeemed sinners!