So there we have it!!
Who is the Sacrament of Reconciliation for?
Paragraph 1446 says, “Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all or those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion…The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as ‘the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace.’”
The first plank of salvation is obviously Baptism
But what happens when we’re in a shipwreck again?
God is SO GOOD that He continues to pour out His mercy upon os
The way you and I experience the Sacrament of Reconciliation now is not the way it was practiced from the very beginning
Yes, there was a ministry of reconciliation
Yes, there was the offering of forgiveness of sins
Because that goes all the way back to Jesus giving that gift to the Apostles
Paragraph 1447 says, “Over the centuries the concrete form in which the Church has exercised this power received from the Lord has varied considerably. During the first centuries the reconciliation of Christians who had committed particularly grave sins after their Baptism (for example, idolatry, murder, or adultery) was tied to a very rigorous discipline, according to which penitents had to do public penance for their sins, often for years, before receiving reconciliation. To this ‘order of penitents’ (which concerned only certain grave sins), one was only rarely admitted and in certain regions only once in a lifetime. During the seventh century Irish missionaries, inspired by the Eastern monastic tradition, took to continental Europe the ‘private’ practice of penance, which does not require public and prolonged completion of penitential works before reconciliation with the Church.”
It would be just between the penitent and the priest
God’s mercies are offered to us regularly
It may seem easy to harshly judge the early Christians
They were so rigorous
They were so intense
We can’t judge them too harshly
Because we can imagine that they would be interested in preserving the high call of the disciple
In the Letter to the Hebrews it says, “In your battle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
So if you want to retain a sense of holiness, you want to retain sense of the ugliness and awfulness of sin, then yes you get to go to Confession one time
On the other hand, we should be grateful for those Irish missionaries who brought the practice of frequent confession and private confession to the rest of Europe and the world
It does not dismiss the reality and the brutality and the ugliness of sin
It emphasizes God’s INFINITE MERCY AND INFINITE GRACE
It seems like virtually every heresy is a refusal to live in paradox
A refusal to live in that place of tension between what is two extremes or two things that seem opposed to each other
You have God’s justice
You have God’s mercy
So in the early Church, there is an emphasis on God’s justice
So as you were coming back to the Church you get to go to Confession one time because sin is awful and horrible
AND GOD IS GOOD!!
GOD IS JUST!!
On the other hand…
Here is God’s mercy
GOD’S MERCY ENDURES FOREVER!!
GOD’S MERCY IS NEW EVERY DAY!!
So let’s hold both of these in tension
That is the Catholic paradox
We hold on to God’s justice and we hold on to the ugliness of sin
We hold on to God’s mercy and the beauty of His grace
We get to inherit the way in which Confession has come to us
Paragraph 1448 says, “Beneath the changes in discipline and celebration that this sacrament has undergone over the centuries, the same fundamental structure is to be discerned. It comprises two equally essential elements: on the one hand, the acts of the man who undergoes conversion through the action of the Holy Spirit: namely, contrition, confession, and satisfaction; on the other, God’s action through the intervention of the Church.”
The intervention of the Church is through the bishops and priests who are ministers of God’s reconciliation
This has remained the same
SO IMPORTANT FOR US!!
Even though some of the discipline and celebration of the sacrament has changed, the essential elements HAVE ALWAYS REMAINED THE SAME
Paragraph 1448 continues, “The Church, who through the bishop and his priests forgives sins in the name of Jesus Christ and determines the manner of satisfaction, also prays for the sinner and does penance with him. Thus the sinner is healed and re-established in ecclesial communion.”
One of the things that the priest does when he hears your confession after giving you absolution and penance to do, is to PRAY FOR YOU AND DO PENANCE WITH YOU
Here’s another Fr. Mike story so let’s listen…
Penance might seem light to us because GOD’S GRACE IS FREE
WE ARE NOT EARNING HIS GRACE!!
WE ARE NOT EARNING HIS MERCY!!
The priest may FAST FOR YOU FOR 30 DAYS
This is the part of the role of the priest in Confession
He prays for the sinner AND he does PENANCE WITH THE SINNER
Now the next section is the PRAYER OF ABSOLUTION
This might be the old prayer in our Catechism book
In 2023 the Church changed a couple of words
Paragraph 1449 says, “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.”
The NEW TRANSLATION is: “He has reconciled the world to himself and poured out the Holy Spirit for the forgiveness of sins…”
Poured out vs Sent
Also, “May God GIVE you pardon and peace.” has been changed to “May God GRANT you pardon and peace.”
What is contrition?
Paragraph 1451 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.’”
So very few of us have PERFECT CONTRITION
I am sad and have sorrow of the soul
I detest my sins
We even say that in the Act of Contrition, “I detest all of my sins.”
Sometimes we have a couple of extremes
There are some people who may say that they don’t feel badly for what they have done
Can they go to Confession?
Fr. Mike would ask if there is any part of them that wants to be free from this sin
Is there any part of you that wants to have this sin taken away?
Is there any part of you that can just live with freedom and joy and the love of God?
If there is any part of you that desires this freedom, then you have the BEGINNINGS OF CONTRITION
God is so humble and loving that He will take even the smallest glimmer of contrition that we can offer and do a miracle in our lives
It may not be perfect
Paragraph 1452 says, “When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called ‘perfect’ (contrition of charity).”
Easy for us to say
Paragraph 1453 says, “The contrition called ‘imperfect’ (or ‘attrition’) is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin’s ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution.”
It is imperfect because our motivation is not a love of God as much as it is a love of self
At the same time, God takes our imperfect, selfish contrition and GIVES US HIS MERCY
The mercy that He purchased for us by His own Blood and the pouring out of His own life
IT IS INCREDIBLE!!
That is an act of grace too
Even if we are in it for ourselves, God gives us His mercy and forgiveness
GOD IS SO GOOD THAT HE WILL GIVE US THAT GRACE!!
The goal for all of our hearst is that we don’t want heaven just for our sakes
WE WANT HEAVEN FOR GOD’S SAKE!!
We don’t want God for our sakes
WE WANT GOD FOR HIS OWN SAKE!!
We love God not for His gifts
WE LOVE GOD FOR HIM!!
That is the goal of our hears where that is PERFECT CONTRITION
Part of the Act of Contrition prayer says, “I detest all of my sins because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all, because they offend thee, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love.”
THAT is a way of expressing PERFECT CONTRITION
You can pray that prayer even if you realize it is aspirational
It may not be how you feel RIGHT NOW so it is an aspiration
We would like to be here because we love God above all things
That may not be true
It’s still OK to say that prayer
Because part of the prayer is aspirational and it is worth expressing
Paragraph 1452 continues, “[Perfect] contrition remits venial sins; It also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.”
So this may confuse some people or be problematic
They may think they can go receive Holy Communion because they made an Act of Contrition so they’ll go to Confession the next time they get a chance
THAT IS NOT WHAT THIS IS SAYING!!
It is not saying that you made an Act of Contrition so just go receive Holy Communion and go to Confession the next chance you get
It is saying that if we have PERFECT CONTRITION it obtains the forgiveness of mortal sins with the resolution that we are going to go to Confession as soon as we can
It does not say, “If I make an ACT of perfect contrition…”
It says, “If I HAVE perfect contrition…”
So do we love God ABOVE ALL ELSE?
If THAT is your motivation for saying sorry…
If THAT is your motivation for coming before the Lord and confessing your sins directly to God…
Some people may hear this and say that since they made an Act of Contrition they can go receive Communion and go to Confession later
THAT IS NOT WHAT THE CHURCH IS TEACHING HERE!!
The Church is expressing that you do not need to be afraid because God is always on our side
GOD LOVES YOU SO MUCH!!
To simply say, “I made an Act of Contrition so I will go to receive Communion and later on go to sacramental Confession”
THAT IS NOT WHERE MOST OF US ARE!!
If we have PERFECT CONTRITION that means we LOVE GOD ABOVE ALL ELSE
This is not most of us…
This is not where most of us are…
Yes, make an Act of Contrition
After your sins, you do not need to wait to go to Confession to make an Act of Contrition
TURN BACK TO THE LORD AS QUICKLY AS YOU CAN!!
CONTINUE TO PRAY AS SOON AS YOU CAN!!
GO TO CONFESSION AS SOON AS YOU CAN!!
Do not presume that we have perfect contrition
Abstain from Holy Communion until we have the chance to go to sacramental Confession (for mortal sins)
Fr. Mike is praying FOR YOU!!
Please pray for Fr. Mike and for each other!!
I cannot WAIT to see you tomorrow!!