Reconciliation

August 20, 2012 under Syllabus 2012-2013

Summary

Reconciliation is a Sacrament that many Catholics tend to exclude from their lives. Many of us grew up and “went to confession” because either our parents or teachers told us to. Going to confession was often an uncomfortable act. As a result, many Catholics stopped participating. The Roman Catholic viewpoint on reconciliation is also one of the differences in belief between Roman Catholics and other Christian religions.

Objective

The objective is to re-introduce everyone to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

  • Why do Catholics find it necessary to confess to a priest?
  • Why is it important to go to reconciliation regularly?
  • When was the last time you participated in the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
  • Are there actions that you regret and weigh heavy on you?

The Catholic Church offers a solution – the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Bible Readings

1. John Chapter 21, 21-23

Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.

2. Matthew Chapter 6, 14-15

If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.

3. 1 John Chapter 1, 8-9

If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves,* and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.

4. Matthew Chapter 9:6-8

But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . .” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”7 And the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.

This verse shows that God has given the authority to forgive sins to “men.” Hence, those Protestants who acknowledge that the apostles had the authority to forgive sins (which this verse demonstrates) must prove that this gift ended with the apostles. Otherwise, the apostles’ successors still possess this gift. Where in Scripture is the gift of authority to forgive sins taken away from the apostles or their successors?

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 1420

” Through the sacraments of Christian initiation, man receives the new life of Christ. Now we carry this life “in earthen vessels,” and it remains “hidden with Christ in God.”1 We are still in our “earthly tent,” subject to suffering, illness, and death.2 This new life as a child of God can be weakened and even lost by sin.”

2. Paragraphs 1422

“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.”4

3. Paragraphs 1441

” Only God forgives sins.39 Since he is the Son of God, Jesus says of himself, “The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” and exercises this divine power: “Your sins are forgiven.”40 Further, by virtue of his divine authority he gives this power to men to exercise in his name.41

4. Paragraphs 1442

” Christ has willed that in her prayer and life and action his whole Church should be the sign and instrument of the forgiveness and reconciliation that he acquired for us at the price of his blood. But he entrusted the exercise of the power of absolution to the apostolic ministry which he charged with the “ministry of reconciliation.”42 The apostle is sent out “on behalf of Christ” with “God making his appeal” through him and pleading: “Be reconciled to God.”43

Additional Information

Why do Catholics find it necessary to confess to a Priest?

  • The bible verses above demonstrate to need to confess to the successors of the apostles….today’s priest
  • As Catholics, we believe that the priest is acting “in persona Chisti” (in the person of Christ) during the sacrament of reconciliation. During the sacrament of Reconciliation, we are confessing to Christ….not a man.
  • The concept of “perfect contrition” – Perfect contrition means that we are sorry for our sins out of love for God and truly sorry for having offended him, not because we fear retribution or going to hell. It is nearly impossible for us as humans to be perfectly contrite. This is evidenced by our continuing to commit the same sins over and over.
    Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, the priest is given the authority to forgive our sins even when we are not perfectly contrite.

Why should I go to confession on a regular basis?

· The Church recommends that we go to confession at least once per year or whenever a “grave” sin is committed.

· Going more frequently, every two or three months, helps us identify our “favorite sins”. If you find yourself confessing the same things over and over, you can zero in on problem behaviors and make corrective action.

How do I make a good confession?

  • Try to find a good Priest to go to regularly. One that is not too tough but not too easy either.
  • Pray for 15 minutes before going to confession, in front of the Blessed Sacrament if you can.
  • Concentrate on the Ten Commandments.
  • If you are not sure if something is a sin or not, it probably is. Confess it!

Small Group Questions

  1. Have you had a bad reconciliation experience? If so, what happened?
  2. Have you recall a good reconciliation experience? If so, what made it special?

Recommended Resources

http://catholicism.about.com/od/beliefsteachings/p/Why_Confession.htm

http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Ten-Reasons-to-Go-to-Confession-Sist

http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2012/04/deacon-bickerstaff-catholic-response-to-comm

Accountability

  1. Commit to going participating in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Author

Ken Mai & Tony Heekin

Included Resources

http://catholicism.about.com/od/beliefsteachings/p/Why_Confession.htm

The Sacrament of Confession

By Scott P. Richert, About.com Guide

Common Misunderstandings:

Confession is one of the least understood of the sacraments of the Catholic Church. In reconciling us to God, it is a great source of grace, and Catholics are encouraged to take advantage of it often.

What is Confession?

What is its purpose and its effects?

What are its requirements?

Can we confess our sins directly to God, or must we go through a priest?

Confession Is a Sacrament:

The Sacrament of Penance, commonly called Confession, is one of the seven sacraments recognized by the Catholic Church. Catholics believe that all of the sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ himself. In the case of Confession, that institution occurred on Easter Sunday, when Christ first appeared to the apostles after his Resurrection. Breathing on them, he said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained” (John 20:22-23).

The Marks of the Sacrament:

Catholics also believe that the sacraments are an outward sign of an inward grace. In this case, the outward sign is the absolution, or forgiveness of sins, that the priest grants to the penitent (the person confessing his sins); the inward grace is the reconciliation of the penitent to God (which is why the sacrament is also sometimes called the Sacrament of Reconciliation).

The Purpose of Confession:

That reconciling of man to God is the purpose of Confession. When we sin, we deprive ourselves of God’s grace. And by doing so, we make it even easier to sin some more. The only way out of this downward cycle is to acknowledge our sins, to repent of them, and to ask God’s forgiveness. Then, in the Sacrament of Confession, grace can be restored to our souls, and we can once again resist sin.

What Is Required?:

Three things are required of a penitent in order to receive the sacrament worthily:

He must be contrite—or, in other words, sorry for his sins.

He must confess those sins fully, in kind and in number.

He must be willing to do penance and make amends for his sins.

How Often Should You Go to Confession?:

While Catholics are only required to go to Confession when they are aware that they have committed a mortal sin, the Church urges the faithful to take advantage of the sacrament often. A good rule of thumb is to go once per month. (The Church strongly recommends that, in preparation for fulfilling our Easter Duty to receive communion, we go to Confession even if we are aware of venial sin only.)

The Church especially urges the faithful to receive the Sacrament of Confession frequently during Lent, to help them in their spiritual preparation for Easter.

Why Is Confession Necessary?:

Non-Catholics, and even many Catholics, often ask whether they can confess their sins directly to God, and whether God can forgive them without going through a priest. On the most basic level, of course, the answer is yes, and Catholics should make frequent acts of contrition, which are prayers in which we tell God that we are sorry for our sins and ask for His forgiveness.

But the question misses the point of the Sacrament of Confession. The sacrament, by its very nature, confers graces that help us to live a Christian life, which is why the Church requires us to receive it at least once per year. Moreover, it was instituted by Christ as the proper form for the forgiveness of our sins. Therefore, we should not only be willing to receive the sacrament, but we should embrace it as a gift from a loving God.

2. Posted by Sr. Mary Ann Walsh
http://www.patheos.com/Resources/Additional-Resources/Ten-Reasons-to-Go-to-Confession-Sist…

 

Confession: It puts you straight with everyone

Penance, aka confession, is the sacrament of the forgiveness of sin. You can’t beat it for convenience. It’s available practically whenever. Tell a priest you want to go to confession and you’ll get his attention. One bishop I know was cornered on an airplane. Another passenger figured out what was going on and asked if he could confess too. It must have been an interesting game of musical seats. An interesting question for priests might be: Where was the strangest place you ever administered the sacrament of penance? The answers I’ve gathered include “in a sports bar, at a graduation party” and “on the golf course, walking up the fairway.”

Confession has benefits. Here are ten:

Confidentiality guaranteed. There’s nothing like confessing your sins to someone guaranteed not to tell anyone else. Sometimes you need to talk in absolute confidence. Even under subpoena, a priest can’t tell anyone what’s said to him in confession. He can’t even hint at it. Now that’s confidentiality.

Housekeeping for the soul. It feels good to be able to start a clean life all over again. Like going into a sparkling living room in your home, it’s nice when clutter is removed – even if it’s your own.

A balm for the desire for revenge. When you have been forgiven you can forgive others. If the perfect Jesus forgives me, who am I to want to avenge the slights in my life. Think: “Why did they promote him over me?’ or “Mom played favorites!”

Low cost therapy. It’s free, which makes it cheaper than a psychiatrist for dealing with guilt.

Forced time to think. Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. To examine our lives and acknowledge failings marks the first step of making things right with God, others and ourselves. Life can be more worth living when you ponder the meaning of your own life.

Contribution toward world peace. Gaudium et Spes, the Second Vatican Council’s Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, said that the imbalances in the world that lead to war and tensions “are linked with that more basic imbalance which is rooted in the heart of man.” Peace of soul leads to peace of heart leads to peace beyond oneself.

A better neighborhood. Confession leaves you feling good about yourself, thereby cutting back the inclination to road rage and aggressive shopping cart driving. With the grace of the sacrament you’re energized to, as Jesus said to the woman caught in adultery, “go and sin no more.”

Realistic self-perception. Confession helps overcome arrogance when you have to admit you’re as much of a sinner as anyone else. It helps build tolerance for others’ perceived shortcomings

One more benefit of being Catholic. There are lots of benefits, including a sense of community, liturgical rites to help us encounter God in prayer, and the wonderful sense of humanity exemplified in the saints, from Mary, the loving Mother of God, to Augustine, the exasperating son of Monica. The sacrament that leads us to inner peace is among the greatest boons.

Closeness to God. Confession helps you realize that you have a close connection to God and receive his grace through the sacraments. What can be better than knowing God’s on your team, or, to be less arrogant about it, that you are on God’s.

3. A Catholic Responds – Five Common Protestant Objections to the Sacrament of Confession
Deacon Mike Bickerstaff
http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2012/04/deacon-bickerstaff-catholic-response-to-comm

In discussing the Catholic faith with non-Catholics, the doctrine concerning confessing one’s sins to a priest often arises. Indeed, in my experience, the Sacrament of Reconciliation ranks right up there with Marian Dogmas among the Church’s teachings that prompt the most questions from those inquiring about the Catholic Faith. The following objections to the doctrine are those about which I am most often asked to respond.

Objection #1 – Only God can forgive sin.

Catholics teach that a priest can forgive sin, but a priest is only a man. Isn’t it true that only God can forgive sin? I don’t mean in a way that any of us can forgive one another, but in the way that God forgives and saves us.

Reply to Objection #1:

It is true that only God can forgive sin (on His own authority). But, God has chosen to delegate that authority. When a priest with faculties to absolve sin says the words of absolution during Confession, he forgives the penitent’s sins by the power and authority of Christ conferred to that priest through Holy Orders. The priest thus acts in the person of Christ (in persona Christi).

Christ delegated this authority to his priests much in the same way that any higher authority delegates its authority to its ambassadors and others who represent the higher authority.

Objection #2 – The bible does not teach that a man can forgive sin.

What you said seems to me to be a man-made explanation, not God’s teaching. Show me where you find this in the bible.

Reply to Objection #2:

That men are delegated the authority from God to forgive sin on his behalf is clearly a part of Divine Revelation. Two passages show this ambassadorial relationship.

“And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.’ At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, ‘Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ – he then said to the paralytic, ‘Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.’ He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings.” (Matthew 9:2-8, emphasis added)

“So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-20, emphasis added)

There are two means by which sin is forgiven through the agency of man according to the bible.

a) Through Baptism

Before a person is baptized, he is guilty of Original Sin and, if baptism occurs after the age of reason, of personal sin. When a person is baptized, all personal sin, Original Sin and the punishments due to sin are wiped clean. The baptized believer is thus born again and receives the grace of justification. Protestant terminology says that this person is justified and saved. Catholic terminology says that this person’s soul is in the state of Sanctifying Grace. Not all Protestants believe that baptism is necessary to be justified and saved. But the following passages demonstrate the truth of the Catholic teaching.

Christ commanded his apostles to baptize.

“The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.’” (Matthew 28:16-20)

Baptism is a condition of salvation.

“He said to them, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.’” (Mark 16:15-16, emphasis added)

Peter preached that repentance and baptism is for the forgiveness of sin.

“Peter (said) to them, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:38, emphasis added)

Peter teaches that baptism saves the believer.

“For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ…” (1 Peter 3:20-21, emphasis added)

Ananias instructs Paul that baptism will wash away his sin.

“A certain Ananias, a devout observer of the law, and highly spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me and stood there and said, ‘Saul, my brother, regain your sight.’ And at that very moment I regained my sight and saw him. Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors designated you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the sound of his voice; for you will be his witness before all to what you have seen and heard. Now, why delay? Get up and have yourself baptized and your sins washed away, calling upon his name.’” (Acts 22:12-16, emphasis added)

b) Through Confession of Sin to God’s minister (a priest)

Baptism does not remove a person’s inclination to sin (called concupiscence by Catholics). Therefore, it is likely that a baptized believer will personally sin after baptism. Some of those sins might be so grave that they result in the loss of Sanctifying Grace. God does not pretend that this does not happen. Instead, in his mercy, God has provided an ordinary means for such a sinner to appeal to him for forgiveness and a restoration of grace, similar to when he was first saved through Baptism.

Jesus gave his Apostles the authority and power to forgive sin as documented in John 20. Some Protestants will argue that this pertains to preaching the Gospel and that forgiveness results from the faith of the believer alone. The argument goes, “The gospel is preached, those who accept it are forgiven their sins, those who don’t have their sins retained.” Of course this is not at all what the text says:

“On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’ (John 20:19-23, emphasis added)

Paul speaks of the ministry of reconciliation and the ambassadorial relationship he exercises.

“So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:17-20, emphasis added)

How is the believer reconciled to God? The passages above clearly show the involvement of God’s ministers in the process of reconciliation. More is required than faith or belief alone. James makes this point in his epistle:

So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. (James 2:17-19, emphasis added)

Objection #3 – But I don’t need a priest, I can go directly to God and ask forgiveness.

I have a personal relationship with the Lord. I often go to him in prayer, asking him to forgive my sins. Why would I need a priest to get in the way?

Reply to Objection #3:

Anyone, of course, can go directly to God and pray for forgiveness. Indeed we should do so as soon as we are aware of having sinned. But the Church teaches and the scriptures support that God desires people to confess to him through his priests.

The Jewish leaders persisted in accusing Jesus of forgiving sins. And Jesus admitted that he did. The above passage from Matthew 9 demonstrates that Jesus did so in his human nature, having authority from God. In the above passage from John 20, Jesus states specifically that he was passing on this ministry and authority, given him by the Father, to his apostles. People of his day denied that Jesus had this power. It is no wonder that some in our day deny that his priests have this power.

Whether or not one understands the why… the what and how are clear. God desires it, so we should do it.

Objection #4 – If you are saved, nothing more is required.

When a person is saved, he cannot lose his salvation. All of your arguments presume that one can lose salvation.

Reply to Objection #4:

This reveals a misunderstanding of how we are saved. First, the sacraments are not works of men, but of God who works through his sacraments. It is no more a work for a person to present himself for baptism or to confess his sins to a priest than it is for a person to answer an altar call in a protestant service or to pray the Protestant’s “Sinner’s Prayer”.

Second, a person must do more than believe to be saved, he must do something… cooperate with God’s grace in some way… be baptized… seek forgiveness from God in the way that God desires… (see above passages). God’s loving call to us demands our response. Our baptism and our sacramental confessions are simply necessary components of that response as are our acts of faith, hope and love.

Third, salvation can indeed be lost. When we accept God’s invitation through belief and baptism, we are justified (receive Sanctifying Grace) and have begun the process of salvation through an ongoing conversion. It is possible to reject this freely offered gift of salvation from God through future sin. If we lose this grace, we once again accept his call through sacramental confession. The notion of “once save, always saved” is not only not found in scripture, we are warned against believing in such a thing.

“Now I am reminding you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand. Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, emphasis added)

“All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it. Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:23-27, emphasis added)

“Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall. No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13, emphasis added)

“Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the firstfruits are holy, so is the whole batch of dough; and if the root is holy, so are the branches. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place and have come to share in the rich root of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. If you do boast, consider that you do not support the root; the root supports you. Indeed you will say, ‘Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.’ That is so. They were broken off because of unbelief, but you are there because of faith. So do not become haughty, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, (perhaps) he will not spare you either. See, then, the kindness and severity of God: severity toward those who fell, but God’s kindness to you, provided you remain in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off. (Romans 11:13-22, emphasis added)

Objection #5 – Evidence shows that Catholic Sacraments do not work.

Confession is nothing more than a permission slip to keep on sinning. People keep on sinning after going to Confession, so it doesn’t work. Same with the Sacrament of the Sick – people are anointed but die anyway. Doesn’t this prove that your sacraments are not effective?

Reply to Objection #5:

In regards to the Sacrament of the Sick, the Church does not teach that it is a guaranteed remedy for bodily illness. While it may be God’s will to heal bodily illness through the sacrament on some occasions, it is also a sacrament that heals our spiritual sickness and prepares us for death. It is clearly illustrated in scripture.

“Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint (him) with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.” (James 5:14-15)

In regards to the sacrament of Confession, it is taught that the grace of the sacrament helps the person to avoid future sin; it is not taught that the sacrament is a guarantee against all future sin. The Sacrament of Confessions is no more a permission slip to keep on sinning than is what Protestants mean by “accepting Jesus and one’s personal Lord and Savior”.