THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE
“Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time,
reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.”
Reconciled to Right Relationship, Called to Heal and Restore.
The new life in Christ that begins in Baptism may be weakened or lost through sin. Sin ruptures not only our relationship with God, but also with our brothers and sisters.
By the nourishing light of the Holy Spirit, we are able to prepare for the sacrament of Penance by examining our consciences to identify those ways in which we are not in right relationship with God and with others. This examination also challenges us to recognize our own participation in the “structures of sin” which degrade other’s lives and dignity.
Through the sacrament of Penance, God offers mercy and forgiveness. In response to this gift, we are called to become vehicles of Christ’s love, making amends and restoring justice and the bonds that have been broken. Healed and forgiven, we are sent to work for peace, justice and love in our communities and world.
Sin damages our relationship with God and neighbor. In the Gospels, Jesus teaches that love of God and love of neighbor are intimately connected (Mt. 22:38-39; Mk. 12:29-31). When we sin against those in need by failing to act compassionately towards them, we ignore Christ himself (Mt. 25:31-46). In the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “Closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God” (Deus Caritas Est 15). Sin ruptures our relationship with God, and also with other members of the Body of Christ (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1440). Take a moment to consider ways that you have broken any of the Ten Commandments: Are there any false “gods” (e.g. material things, pleasure, etc.) that you place above God and other people? Have you treated family Penance Reconciled to Right Relationship, Called to Heal and Restore members or others with disrespect? Have you lied, gossiped, cheated or stolen?
Sin is never an individual affair. Sin damages our relationships with others and all of creation. Thus, sin is never a purely individual affair and has social dimensions (Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis 20; John Paul II, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 15). Sin becomes manifest in unjust structures. The collective actions (or failures to act) of individuals create “structures of sin” which “grow stronger, spread, and become the source of other sins” (John Paul II, Sollicitudo rei Socialis 35-37). For example, widespread poverty, discrimination, denial of basic rights, and violence result from many peoples’ actions (or failures to act) because of greed, racism, selfishness, or indifference (Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 2, 16). We are all called to consider how we contribute to structures of sin in our personal, economic, and public choices. For example, do we take into account the treatment of workers when we make purchases? How do our consumption choices contribute to environmental degradation? Are we aware and informed? Do we take the time to educate ourselves about issues that affect the community and advocate on behalf of those who are poor and vulnerable?
We are called to examine our consciences and admit our failings. The sacrament of Penance challenges us to examine our hearts inwardly and then express outwardly the ways we have failed to love God and neighbor—through both personal sin and social sin.
Confession is scheduled Saturdays at 3:30 PM in the St. Elizabeth’s Chapel or call the church office if you would like to set up an appointment.