The Sacrament of Reconciliation-
Penance or Confession
In this sacrament of healing we celebrate God forgiving our sins and us becoming better united with God and with the church.
In Luke's Gospel (15:11-24) we read the story of the Prodigal Son who took his share of the family inheritance and wasted it on foolish things. When he realized how empty his life was and he remembered the goodness and the love of his father he decided to return home and ask to be reunited with his family. His father saw him coming and ran out to meet him with a hug and threw a big party to celebrate the return of his son who was lost.
From this story we learn that God always forgives us and welcomes us back when we have turned our back on God. There is no sinful action that God will not forgive. When we sin we too can be reunite with God in the sacrament of Reconciliation.
The sacrament of penance is part of our faith life of continuing conversion and transformation. Sin distances us from God and from each other. It distorts our vision. It makes us loose sight of our baptismal dignity. Serious sin cuts us off from the very place where we can experience the life of Christ—the Church.
This sacrament becomes the opportunity to restore baptismal newness.
What is Sin?
We are profoundly loved by God, a love that is unconditional. God has given us life, and, through baptism, called us into union with Christ and with each other.
Sin can be seen as a rejection of God's love, as a refusal of an opportunity to accept his love and pass it on to others. And while many people would make the claim that "they don't do anything wrong," think about the things we have done that fail to develop us as persons, that fail to assist others. the can be the cause of hurt or pain to ourselves or another. Many of our personal failings could be named "sin" because they stand in the way of our becoming all that God has called us to be.
Sin is a personal act, in that it affects the individual person created in the image and likeness of God. Our participation in collective wrong doing gives rise to social or structural sin —sin that gives rise to social situation and institutions contrary to the very nature of God.
Conversion and Contrition
Conversion means a turning around, a changing direction, doing a complete reversal of a former way. It is the light of the glory of Christ that calls us to change our hearts, to radically conform our living to the life of Christ.
The most important act of the penitent in the celebration of the sacrament of penance is contrition, which is heartfelt sorrow along with the intention of sinning no more. We can only approach the kingdom of Christ by metanoia, or conversion. This is a profound change of the whole person by which one begins to consider, judge, and arrange his or her life according to the holiness and the love of God, made manifest in Jesus Christ. The genuineness of penance depends on this heartfelt contrition. For conversion should affect a person from within so that it may progressively enlighten him or her and render the person more like Christ.
Our God is ever calling us into deeper union with him, a constant call to change our hearts and conform them to the very heart of God, who is love.
The sacrament of penance includes the confession of sins, which comes from true knowledge of self before God and from contrition for those sins. However, this inner examination of heart and the exterior accusation should be made in the light of God's mercy. Confession requires in the penitent the will to open his or her heart to the minister of God, and in the minister a spiritual judgment by which acting in the person of Christ, he pronounces the forgiveness of sins.
Through the sign of absolution, God grants pardon to the sinner who in sacramental confession manifests a change of heart to the church's minister. In God's design the humanity and loving kindness of our Savior have visibly appeared to us, and God uses visible signs to give salvation and to renew the broken covenant.
In the sacrament of penance the Father receives the repentant son who comes back to him, Christ places the lost sheep on his shoulders and bring it back to the sheepfold, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies the temple of God again, living more fully within it. This is finally expressed in a renewed and more fervent sharing of the Lord's table, and there is great joy at the banquet of God's Church over the son or daughter who has returned form afar.
An Examination of Conscience
Some thoughts on examination of conscience for adults . . .
For too long we have looked at an examination of conscience as a mere exertion of effort necessary to come up with a grocery list of sins. Rather, it should be part of the rhythm of our daily lives. It is not so much a looking at the things we do, but rather, at the person who does them.
Think of yourself as a person
• Do you accept yourself with your good and bad points? Do you share yourself with others?
• Do you realize you have been called by, loved by God in a unique way?
• Do you treat others with dignity and respect? Do you use your sexuality irresponsibly or selfishly?
Think of yourself as a wife or husband
• Do you strive for understanding and communication with your spouse in order to be one spirit as planned by God?
Think of yourself as a father or mother
• Do you give your children yourself, your time, your abilities?
• Do you correct them when they're wrong, praise them when you should, instruct them with gentleness and patience?
• Are you aware of your responsibility to guide them in the Faith by your words and actions?
• Do you apologize and admit when you're wrong and they've been right?
Think of yourself as an adult child
• Do you realize that this command to "honour your father and mother" applies to you, if you are blessed to still have your parents as is it does to your children?
Think of yourself as a neighbour
• Do you realize that your neighbor is your brother and sister?
• Do you try to be helpful when you know there is a need?
• Do you respect their rights and allow them to be persons?
• Do you make judgments about people based upon their appearance?
• Do you harbour prejudice in your heart?
Think of yourself as an employee, as an employer
• Do you give your employer all of your time during the hours he or she is paying you, realizing that "stealing time" is the same as stealing?
• Do you give your employer your full efforts and concentration during working hours?
• Do I pay a just wage? Do I provide adequate working conditions?
Think of yourself as a member of the world community of the family of God
• Do you sufficiently reflect on the responsibility you have to be concerned about the other members of this family who are suffering from poverty, prejudice, unfair labor practices, unjust housing laws, and other various causes?
• Do you take it as a responsibility to consider the morality involved in issues like abortion, euthanasia, denial of rights to migrant workers, corruption in political or economic structures?
• Do you take it as your responsibility to be informed about current events and to listen with open minds and hearts to those holding different positions?
Think of yourself in your direct relationship with God
• Do you make the effort to spend some time with Him each day even if it's just to say "good morning" or "thanks?"
• Do you seek to know Him better in whatever way fits you best?
• Do you allow Him to give Himself often to you in the gifts of His sacraments of Eucharist and Penance?