Today we shall begin to discuss another important sacrament in the Catholic Church. We have come to know that Baptism washes away our sins. What happens when we sin after Baptism? Do we need to be rebaptized? No! We have established in previous lessons that Baptism imprints on our souls an indelible mark, and so cannot be repeated! We rather make use of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (or Penance or Confession).
Origin and Biblical Foundation
On Easter Sunday evening, Jesus told his apostles that just as God the Father had sent him — and God the Father sent him to save us from our sins — so he was sending them. He breathed on them the power of the Holy Spirit, giving them God’s power to forgive sins, since no one can forgive sins but God alone. He told them that whatever sins they forgive are forgiven and whatever sins they retain are retained (Jn 20:21-23; Mk 2:7).
Since the apostles were unable to read minds, the only way that they would know which to forgive and which to retain is if people told them their sins. This power was handed on to the bishops, who are the direct successors of the apostles; and priests, who are collaborators of the bishops. Jesus thus established the essential structure of the sacrament of confession. Just as he uses priests to give us his Body and Blood at Mass so he uses them to give us His mercy in Penance.
What goes on in this Sacrament?
The Sacrament of Penance is for spiritual healing. Jesus left the Sacrament of Penance because only God’s grace can heal a wounded soul.
Sinning not only breaks God’s laws — the Ten Commandments, for example — but wounds the sinner spiritually.
Going to confession may involve kneeling in a confessional and seeing the priest through a screen or just sitting other kneeling beside the priest
The manner in which this sacrament is done has developed over time, but the basics have always remained:
Confession: You must confess all known mortal sins to a priest. You can confess all your sins, but start with any mortal sins.
The priest is bound by the most absolute secrecy and confidentiality known to humankind. Not even the Pope can get a priest to tell who went to him for confession or what was confessed. The priest must be willing to endure prison, torture, and death before violating the Seal of Confession, the secrecy of the sacrament.
Contrition: You must be sorry you committed the sins and resolve to do your best not to repeat them.
Penance: After you confess your sins, the priest gives you a penance to perform. A penance may be to do something nice for your enemy every day for a week. It may be to visit a nursing home or hospital one day a week for a month. It may involve any one of the corporal or spiritual works of mercy. Or it may be a set of prayers, such as saying the Our Father or the Hail Mary, a certain number of times.
Absolution: The priest or bishop hearing your confession offers forgiveness, saying a prayer that calls on God to give you absolution and peace.
Receiving the Eucharist with mortal sin on your soul is a sacrilege, disrespect for the sacrament and another mortal sin.
Next Monday, we shall look at the effects of this Sacrament and how to prepare adequately to make a good confession. Do well to also take advantage of this Sacrament during this Season of Lent.
(WhatsApp number: +233 541 859198)
(You may whatsapp your questions and contributions for further clarifications)