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Reconciliation calls for making peace; to re-establish friendship between a person and his neighbor and God; to settle or resolve some dispute; to break down the walls of distrust, petty feelings, a restoration of the bonds of friendship and love.
When we offend someone, we sin against that person. We violate that trust, peace and sense of wellbeing with that person. This results in hostilities, suspicion, aggravation, tearing people apart. When we violate anyone, we offend God, we sin against that person, against God and ultimately against the very goodness in us, with which God has created us. This break-down in our relationship begins to eat every good fibre in us, like an ever growing aggressive cancerous cell, and does not stop till it consumes itself.
Jesus teaches us the way to stop such a self-destructive trend in our lives. It is by forgiving, that we set the other person free from the self centered bonds of sin.
"The first and chief sacrament for the forgiveness of sins is Baptism. For those sins committed after Baptism, Christ instituted the sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance through which a baptized person is reconciled to God and with the Church". (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 200).
This sacrament awakens in us the "Coming to our senses" (as in the story of the Prodigal Son, St. Luke's Gospel Ch 15.) as the beginning of "The returning of the Prodigal son" to the merciful Father.
Reconciliation is brought about through a continuous conversion of heart, mind and soul in a person. This brings about restoration of our friendship with God and therefore forgiveness of sins.
HOW TO RECEIVE THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE
You, O Lord, according to your gentle grace,
Promised forgiveness to those who repent of their sins,
And in your many mercies
Established penance for sinners as the way to salvation. . .
And now behold I am bending the knees of my heart before you;
And I am beseeching you kindness.
I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned;
And I certainly know my sins.
I beseech you: Forgive me, O Lord, forgive me!
The Prayer of Manasseh
Sin is an offense against God, an offense against our neighbor and an offense against one self. Sin is described as a turning away from God, turning away from one’s neighbor and turning away from one’s true self. Sin is seen as a failure in our stewardship either by way of omission or commission. When we fail to fulfill our responsibilities or when we violate God’s holiness or human dignity or God’s order of creation, we sin.
Sin therefore is a human act, that which is done consciously with sufficient knowledge of the nature of that act and done with one’s free will, without pressure or coercion. It is therefore a responsible action whether in thoughts, words or actions.
Sin in My Life:
Modern society has somehow lost a sense of sin. Perhaps there are many factors in our lives which we have over generations packed into a culture of our ‘permissive society’. Perhaps our unguarded desire to be independent and pursue self-determination without any measure of standards to serve as an ethical or moral compass in our lives, we may have lost the sense of sin.
In such a wide open cloistered world of our own making and believing, that ‘I am the center of the universe’, we fail to see how my neighbor figures in my life. How my actions, thoughts and words affect my fellowmen. How what one does or does not do, thinks or does not care to think, says or refrains from saying, does or fails to do, is bound to affect our brothers and sisters, either in a life-giving fashion or death-dealing manner.
In a life-giving environment, grace builds upon human nature, flourishing into gifts of peace and harmony, holiness and joy. But a death-dealing phenomena begins to fester and precipitates in discord and unhappiness.
As Catholics and followers of Christ, we need to make efforts to recognize sin in our daily actions, words and omissions. A good review of of our lives can help us recognize these patterns and vestiges of sin in our human actions and behavior.
In a letter urging Catholics in the Diocese of Santa Rosa, CA, Bishop Walsh said “impurities in a car engine, clutter behind a couch, weeds taking over a garden – all are metaphors for sins that periodically need to be cleared away.”
“Every so often we have to weed our gardens”, Bishop Walsh, former Auxiliary Bishop of San Francisco said in the letter to his people. ‘If we don’t, the weeds will take over and the garden disappears.’ The sacrament of Penance is like periodically checking the garden of our souls for weeds that hamper our discipleship.
Every so often, we service our vehicles with an oil change, tuning, checking all the other elements of our cars, to prevent a buildup in the engine. Bishop Walsh says that ‘there may not be any major problem with our engine at initial stages, ‘but slowly, over time, minor impurities build up. If this is not attended, they will eventually result in major and costly problems of our cars.
The church says mortal sins and repeated venial sins that go un-repented damage a relationship with God. It is through reconciliation that sinners rid their soul of these impurities and restore and renew their relationship with God. (Catholic San Francisco, July 24, 2009)
The Gospels show how important forgiveness is in our sins. Lives of saints prove that the person who grows in holiness has a stronger sense of sin, of sorrow for sins, and a need for the Sacrament of Penance or Confession.
A helpful check on spiritual growth is how Christ-like you are in loving your enemies, forgiving others, loving and serving others, and carrying your cross. Another helpful check is how you are handling the Seven Capital Sins. These are:
- Pride: (Am I self-centered?)
- Greed: (Are money and things my real goals in life?)
- Lust: (Am I pure in my action, speech and thinking?)
- Anger: (Do I control my temper and tongue?)
- Gluttony: (Do I control my appetites and addiction?)
- Envy: (Am I jealous of what others have or are?)
- Laziness: (Am I lazy? Am I apathetic?)
The Holy Father, Pope Benedict the 16th notes ‘the liberating power of this sacrament, in which our honest confession of sin is met by God’s merciful words of pardon and peace, needs to be rediscovered and re-appropriated by every Catholic.”
When we have unburdened our hearts of all our fears, guilt, anxieties, selfishness, pride, anger, self-seeking, lust, envy, greed, shame and what have we……. We will hear Him (JESUS) speak again ….. to you and me again ... (Catholic San Francisco, July 24, 2009)
We Catholics are fortunate to have the Sacrament of Penance. It is the ordinary way for us to receive forgiveness for our sins.
This sacrament is a powerful help to getting rid of our weaknesses, grow in holiness, and lead a balanced life.
A serious Catholic, living in the state of grace, celebrates this sacrament frequently, for example once every month . . . or every three months . . . and Certainly before Christmas and the Easter Triduum every year.
The Differences in Sins:
God created man in his image and established him in his friendship. A spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God. The “tree of knowledge of good and evil” symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust. Man is dependent on his Creator and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, para. 396)
There are two major kinds of sin: original and actual.
The Original sin is imputed to the act of disobedience of Adam and Eve. That act of defiance of God’s authority. It is act of denial to acknowledge God’s sovereignty. It is an act of refusing to rely and depend on God’s magnanimous providence. It is a self seeking and self-serving act of our first parents, Adam and Eve.
‘All of us are implicated in Adam’s Sin, as St. Paul affirms: “By one man’s disobedience many [that is, all men] were made sinners”: ‘sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned…” 289. The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. ‘Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.’290 (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, para. 402)
Actual sin is sin which people commit in thoughts, words or deeds. Our human action can become sinful when it is disordered; when it is against God, our neighbor and against ourselves. There are two kinds of actual sins,
- mortal and
Mortal sin is a horrible offense against God, so horrible that it destroys the life of grace in the soul. Three simultaneous conditions must be fulfilled for a sin to become a mortal sin:
- the human action (of thought, word or deed) must be something very serious
- the person must have sufficient understanding of what is being done
- the person must have sufficient freedom of the will.
So one cannot commit a mortal sin if the matter is not serious (e.g., if I stole a very small or an insignificant amount of money from my employer), or if I did not know what I was doing (e.g., if were to hurt someone accidentally or unthinkingly), or if I did not act with full freedom (e.g., I was under great physical or emotional pressure). Mortal sin is seriously a death dealing human action.
A Catholic should know well the difference between mortal and venial sins and, if mortal sins have been committed since the last Confession, should identify them as mortal when confessing.
Have mercy on me, O God, in your kindness;
In the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me of my guilt
And of my sin cleanse me . . .
A clean heart create for me, O God,
And a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Psalm 51:3-4, 12
Examination of Conscience:
Before going to Confession one should make a review of Mortal and venial sins committed since one’s last forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance, and should express sorrow to God for all those sins, hatred for sins and firm resolution not to sin again.
A helpful pattern for examination of conscience is to review The Commandments of God and the Precepts of the Church:
- Have God and the pursuit of sanctity in Christ been the goal of my life?
- Have I avoided the profane use of God’s name in my speech? Do I swear and take God’s Holy name in vain?
- Have I honored every Sunday and tried by avoiding unnecessary work; celebrating the Mass, re-creating myself, praying with my family?
- Have I shown Christ-like respect to parents, spouse, and others?
- Have I cared for the bodily health and safety of myself and all others? Have I put myself or others in harm’s way? In my driving or my general conduct and behavior?
- Have I been chaste in thought and word? Have I used sex only within marriage and while open to procreating new life?
- Have I been a cause of sin to others? Have I been an accomplice to sin?
- Have I stolen anything from another, from my employer, from government? If so, am I ready to repay it?
- Have I spoken ill of any other person? Have I always told the truth?
- Have I permitted sexual thoughts about someone to whom I am not married?
- Have I desired what belongs to other people?
- Have I been faithful to sacramental living in communion and Penance?
- Have I helped make my parish community stronger and holier?
- Have I done penance by abstaining and fasting on days of stipulated by the Church? Fasting on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday; Abstaining from eating meat on days of fast (as mentioned above) and on all Fridays during Lent?
- Have I been mindful of the poor? Have I practiced good stewardship with the talents, treasure and time that God has given me?
“Neither will I condemn you. Go your way and from now on sin no more.”
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, said to the woman accused of committing a serious sin. Remember even the good thief acknowledging his personal sinfulness and recognizing his misery, hanging on a cross next to Jesus, asked:
Lord remember me, when you come into your kingdom…
Jesus said: “This day you shall be with me in paradise.”
No matter how deeply we have fallen into sin, we should never fear God because He is our Father Who knows our weaknesses but loves us without limit. Never fear any priest in the confessional as he is God’s representative placed there to help us, and he, too, is a sinner in need of God’s mercy.
If it is a long time since your last confessions, if there are some sins that you don’t know how to confess or are afraid to tell the priest, if you are mixed up about past confessions or if you have any questions or problems, ask the priest in the confesional to help you.
Please do not postpone your confession; that never solves anything.
“If today, you hear His voice… harden not your hearts”
A REVIEW OF LIFE
- Do I love God above all else? Do I put anything ahead of Him: money, power, sex? Blamed Him when I was dissatisfied?
- Have I sworn falsely? Used profanity?
- Have I attended Mass on Sunday? Prayed often?
- Do I respect my parents and all in authority? Been critical of them? Do I support my parents if they need it?
- Have I injured or endangered anyone by my anger, drunkenness or carelessness? Have I used drugs or alcohol to excess?
- Have I been pure in thought, word and deed? Had an abortion? Advice procured or participated in one?
- Have I stolen? Damaged property? Given to the Church?
- Have I lied about anyone? Damaged anyone’s reputation?
- Have I been jealous or envious? Been mean or petty toward those who have more than I?
- Have I respected the marriage bonds of others even in my thoughts?
Confessing My Sins:
After examining your conscience and telling God of your sorrow, go into the Reconciliation Room. You may kneel at the screen or sit so as to talk face to face with the priest.
When you speak, use words such as these: I confess to Almighty God and to you, Father that I have sinned. My last Confession was ……… weeks (months, years) ago or,
Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.
It is ____________ (length of time) since my
last confession and these are my sins.
Since then I know of no mortal sins (or) since then my mortal sins are these …. (Tell the sins and the number of times and important circumstances.)
My venial sins are these: (tell the sins and the number of times) or: since then I know of no venial sins.
My main fault is ……………… and I am working to overcome it. In my past life there were sins of ……… for which I am still sorry.
Listen to the words of the priest. When invited, make An Act of Contrition: Prayer of sorrow, using one of the following options, such as:
Act of Contrition
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you.
I detest all my sins because I dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of hell.
But most of all because they offend you, my God,
who are all good and deserving of all my love.
I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace,
to sin no more and to avoid all occasions of sin.
A Prayer of Sorrow
My God, I am sorry
For my sins with all my heart, in choosing
To do wrong and failing to do good,
I have sinned against You Whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend, with your help, to do Penance,
to sin no more, and to avoid whatever Leads me to sin.
Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.
In His name, my God, have mercy.
(Adapted from “I am a Catholic…” Monastery of the Precious Blood, Watertown, N.Y.)
Listen to the words of Absolution, the Prayer of forgiveness, concluding with the sign of the cross together with the priest. If he closes by saying,
Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,
Answer: For his mercy endures forever.
Then say or do your assigned penance.
(Adapted from A Gift of the Knights of Columbus prayer Card)
Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Parish of All Souls Church, South San Francisco, CA:
Celebrated every Saturday from 4pm to 5pm,
you may also call the Parish office for an appointment to make a good confession. 650-871-8944
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