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The Sacrament of Reconciliation: Rising up again to a new life.
Many Catholics treasure the sacrament of reconciliation.
The peace of mind and soul that this sacrament imparts to us is one for which there is no substitute. It is a peace that flows from a certainty, rather than from an insecure hope, that our sins have been forgiven and that we are right with God.
Although many people converted to the Catholic Church initially fear it, they quickly come to love the sacrament of Reconciliation once they overcome their nameless fears, fears that stem from a misconception of what the Holy Supper really is.
Confession, Penance and Reconciliation
The sacrament of reconciliation is also known as penance and confession, among other names.
Although often referred to as Reconciliation in common usage, the term "penance" best describes the essential interior disposition required for this sacrament.
In fact, there is a virtue of penance. This is a supernatural virtue by which we are motivated to detest our sins for a reason known by faith, and with the purpose of not offending God more and of satisfying our sins. In this sense, the word "penance" is synonymous with "penance" or "repentance".
Before the time of Christ, the virtue of penance was the only means by which the sins of people could be forgiven. Even today, for those who are outside the Church in good faith, without possessing the sacrament of Penance, it is the only means for the forgiveness of sins.
Continuing the work of redemption.
The sacrament of Reconciliation is a sacrament in which the priest, as an agent of God, forgives the sins committed after baptism, when the sinner regrets them sincerely, confesses them sincerely and is willing to satisfy them.
By his death on the cross, Jesus Christ redeemed man from sin and the consequences of his sin, especially the eternal death that is due to sin.
Then, it is not surprising that on the same day he rose from the dead, Jesus instituted the sacrament by which the sins of men could be forgiven.
A power granted by Christ.
On the Sunday afternoon of Easter, Jesus appeared to his apostles, gathered in the upper room, where they had eaten the last supper. When they were speechless and recoiled in a mixture of fear and nascent hope, Jesus spoke to them in a reassuring way.
May Saint John (20: 19-23) say it:
Jesus came and stood in the middle and said: "Peace to you!" And when he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples, then, rejoiced at the sight of the Lord. That is why he told them again: «Peace be with you! As the Father sent me, I also send you. "When he said this, he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you will forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins you will retain, they will be retained. "
Simplifying the words of our Lord in more modern terms, what he said was this:
As God, I have the power to forgive sin. Now I entrust you with the use of that power. You will be my representatives. Any sin you forgive, I will forgive. Any sin you do not forgive, I will not forgive.
Necessary after baptism
Jesus knew well that many of us would forget our courageous baptismal promises and commit serious sins after our baptism. He knew that many of us would lose the grace, the life of sharing in God that came to us in baptism.
Since God's mercy is infinite and untiring, it seems inevitable that he will provide a second chance (and a third and a fourth and a hundredth if necessary) for those who may fall back into sin.
A power of the priesthood.
This power to forgive the sin that Jesus conferred on his apostles was not, of course, to die with them; no more than the power to convert bread and wine into his Body and Blood, which he conferred on the Apostles at the Last Supper.
Jesus did not come to earth just to save a few chosen souls, or simply to the people who lived on earth during the lives of his apostles.
Jesus came to save all those who were willing to be saved, until the end of time. He and I had in mind you, as well as Timothy and Titus, when he died on the Cross.
It is evident, then, that the power to forgive sins is part of the power of the priesthood, which is transmitted in the sacrament of the Holy Orders from generation to generation.
It is the power exerted by each priest when he raises his hand over the contrite sinner and says: "I exonerate you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. "These are called" the words of absolution. "
It may be that at one time or another we find that the sacrament of Reconciliation is a burden. Maybe we can even remember an occasion when we said: "I wish I did not have to go to confession".
But certainly in our most sensible moments we find that Reconciliation is a sacrament that we love, a sacrament we would like to have.
Just think of all that the sacrament of Reconciliation does for us!
In the first place, if a person has been separated from God by a serious and deliberate act of disobedience against God (that is, by a mortal sin), the sacrament of Reconciliation reunites the soul with God; Sanctifying grace is restored to the soul.
At the same time, sin itself (or sins) is forgiven. Just as darkness disappears from a room when the light is turned on, so sin disappears from the soul with the coming of sanctifying grace.
When received without any mortal sin in the soul, the sacrament of Reconciliation imparts to the soul an increase in sanctifying grace. This means that there is a deepening and strengthening of that shared divine life by which the soul is united to God.
And always, all the venial sins that the penitent could have committed and that he really regrets are forgiven. These are the minor and most common sins that do not separate us from God but hinder, as the clouds through the sun, the full flow of his grace towards the soul.
Crime and Punishment.
The restoration or the increase of sanctifying grace and the forgiveness of mortal and venial sins, is there something else that the sacrament of Reconciliation can do for us?
If it is a mortal sin, Reconciliation erases the eternal punishment that is the inevitable consequence of mortal sin. It also remits at least part of the temporary punishment due to sin.
The temporary punishment due to sin is simply the debt of satisfaction that I owe to God for my sins, even after the sins themselves have been forgiven. It is a matter of "repairing the damage", we could say.
A simple example to illustrate this would be that of an angry child who kicks the leg of the table and throws a piece of pottery on the floor. "Sorry, mother," he says regretfully. "I should not have done that." "Well," says the mother, "if you feel it, I will not punish you, but get down and pick up the pieces, and I hope you buy a new plate of your subsidy."
The mother forgives disobedience and absolves herself of punishment, but she still expects her son to be satisfied with his rebellious outburst.
It is this satisfaction that we owe to God for having offended him that we call "temporary punishment due to sin". Either we pay the debt in this life for prayers, penances and other good deeds that we perform in the state of Grace, or we will have to pay the debt in purgatory. And it is this debt that the sacrament of Reconciliation reduces at least partially, in proportion to the degree of our pain.
The more fervent our condition, the more our debt of temporary satisfaction is reduced.
Restoring the lost merits.
Another additional effect of the sacrament of Reconciliation is that it restores the merits of our past good works if they have been lost through mortal sin.
As we know, every good work we do in the state of grace and with the intention of doing it out of love for God is a meritorious work. It entitles us to an increase of grace in this life and an increase of glory in heaven. Even the simplest actions (kind words spoken, reflective actions performed) have this effect, not to mention the prayers that are said, the Masses offered, the sacraments received.
However, mortal sin cancels this accumulated merit, no matter how much a man loses his life savings by a reckless gamble.
God could with perfect justice allow our past merits to remain lost forever, even when He forgives our sins. But in its infinite goodness, it does not make us start again from scratch. The sacrament of Reconciliation not only forgives our mortal sins; It also gives us back the merits that we had voluntarily rejected.
Additional thanks to strengthen us.
Finally, in addition to all its other benefits, the sacrament of Reconciliation gives us the right to the real graces we may need, and as we need them, so that we can make atonement for our past sins and overcome our future temptations.
This is the special "sacramental grace" of Penance; It strengthens us against a relapse into sin.
It is a spiritual medicine that strengthens and heals. That's why a person who tries to lead a good life will make it a practice to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation often. Frequent confession is one of the best guarantees for not falling into a serious sin. It would be the height of stupidity to say: "I do not need to go to confession because I have not committed any mortal sin."
All these results of the sacrament of reconciliation: restoration or increase of sanctifying grace, forgiveness of sins, remission of punishment, restoration of merit, grace to overcome temptation, all this is possible only through the infinite merits of Jesus Christ, that the Holy Communion Reconciliation applies to our souls.
Jesus on the cross has already "done our work for us". In the sacrament of Reconciliation, we simply give God the opportunity to share with us the infinite merits of his Son.