The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the most unique and beautiful aspects of Catholicism. Jesus Christ, in His abundant love and mercy, established the Sacrament of Confession, so that we as sinners can obtain forgiveness for our sins and reconcile with God and the Church. The sacrament “washes us clean,” and renews us in Christ.
Jesus entrusted the ministry of reconciliation to the Church. The Sacrament of Penance is God’s gift to us so that any sin committed after Baptism can be forgiven. In confession, we have the opportunity to repent and recover the grace of friendship with God. It is a holy moment in which we place ourselves in his presence and honestly acknowledge our sins, especially mortal sins. With absolution, we are reconciled to God and the Church. The Sacrament helps us stay close to the truth that we cannot live without God.
With the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God forgives through the ministry of a priest. And this gives the sacrament a very warm and human aspect as we hear the words of absolution pronounced officially and authoritatively by a priest who not only represents Christ, but the whole Church. We are human beings with senses and emotions. The mediation of God’s graces speaks to our need to hear and sense his words of forgiveness.
Before celebrating the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, be sure to prepare with an examination of conscience.
The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation includes the following steps:
- The priest greets us, and we pray the Sign of the Cross. He invites us to trust in God. He may read God’s Word with us.
- We confess our sins. The priest may help and counsel us.
- The priest gives us a penance to perform. Penance is an act of kindness or prayers to pray, or both.
- The priest asks us to express our sorrow, usually by reciting the Act of Contrition.
- We receive absolution. The priest says, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We respond, “Amen.”
- The priest dismisses us by saying, “Go in peace.” We go forth to perform the act of penance he has given us.
“The Sacrament of Penance is one of the Church’s precious treasures, since authentic world renewal is accomplished only through forgiveness. Nothing can improve the world if evil is not overcome. Evil can be overcome only by forgiveness. Certainly, it must be an effective forgiveness; but only the Lord can give us this forgiveness, a forgiveness that drives away evil not only with words but truly destroys it. Only suffering can bring this about and it has truly taken place with the suffering love of Christ, from whom we draw the power to forgive.”
–Pope Benedict XVI. Homily, May 15, 2005