Growing up as a Catholic, the sacrament of reconciliation has been a constant presence in my life. I have gone through it from my childhood to my teens and more so now as an adult when I find myself steering away from the will of God. But what exactly is this sacrament and why do we need to go through it? More importantly, how will it help us as a Catholic?
Reconciliation is a sacrament that frees us from our sins. It allows us to repent and mend our relationship with God, and reconcile with the Church, which we’ve also wounded by our sins. At the same time, it challenges us to have the same compassion and forgive those who have sinned against us.
Also known as penance or confession, reconciliation involves different parts and follows a specific order. You should be familiar with each one as part of your preparation before receiving the sacrament. To help you with that and make your experience more meaningful, I’ve put together everything you need to know about reconciliation.
What is Reconciliation?
The sacrament of reconciliation is God’s gift to us so that our sins after baptism may be forgiven. It allows us to experience His boundless love and mercy, freeing us from our offenses against Him. Moreover, it is one of the ways that we can heal, restore, and strengthen our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Now, every time we sin, not only are we hurting God and ourselves but we are also damaging our communion with the Church. This sacrament repairs that damage, helping us reconcile with the Church as mentioned in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). Moreover, it encourages us to be forgivers and to have the same kind of compassion for those who have wronged us.
Even for venial sins or lesser offenses, the Church recommends still going to regular confession. This will help “form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, and let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit.” (CCC, 1458)
4 Parts of the Sacrament of Reconciliation – What You Need to Do
Like all the sacraments of the Catholic Church, reconciliation is a liturgical action. This means that it follows a certain order. To be specific, it is made up of four parts, including the following:
Contrition is the act of expressing one’s sorrow for sin and for having offended God. This is the first part of the sacrament of reconciliation but usually follows the confession of sin. It is defined in the CCC, 1451, as “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.”
It is during this part that you express your desire to get the right relationship with God, which means doing His will. That said, there won’t be any forgiveness if you don’t feel any sorrow and a firm resolve not to make the same mistakes again. This is why contrition is considered the most important part of reconciliation.
In this act, you have to acknowledge your sins and make them known to the priest. This entails admitting your faults and speaking about them out loud. Now, this might seem awkward, especially if this is your first time or if you haven’t gone through it for a long time.
But according to CCC, 1455, disclosing your sins can free you and help you reconcile with others. It is through such admission that you can confront your sins, take responsibility for them, and thus, open yourself up again to God and reunite with the Church for a possible better future.
The priest can assist and guide you during your confession. He may also provide you with counsel throughout the process of conversion from sin.
3. Penance or Satisfaction
When you cause harm to others, you have to do what you can to make up for your mistakes and restore the relationship. This ensures that justice is given. The same goes when it comes to your sins against God. So aside from being sincere and acknowledging your sins, you have to do something more to make amends.
Here’s where the act of penance or satisfaction comes in. At this part, the priest will provide you with acts of penance in reparation for your sins. This could be a concrete gesture, such as taking part in charity or a form of prayer or devotion. Ultimately, the penance depends on your personal situation and on the nature of the sins you’ve committed.
Finally, absolution will take away your sins. This is the part where the priest will tell you that you are absolved from your sins and reconciled to God. This is where the real power of the sacrament of reconciliation lies. See, you can always pray to God for forgiveness. But only in the sacramental celebration of reconciliation will you find the gift of forgiveness given to you in such a concrete form.
Why You Need the Sacrament of Reconciliation
The sacrament of reconciliation can bring you peace both in mind and in spirit. Through it, you can be certain that your sins are forgiven and that you are right with God. This can be seen in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which says that reconciliation is usually followed by “peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation”.
Not only that, but the sacrament of reconciliation also brings you closer to the Church and God, and recover His grace. It can save you from eternal and temporal punishment, which is the consequence of sin, and guide you toward living the Christian way.
That said, it’s understandable that you might find it difficult to admit to your faults. You may even find it harder to ask for forgiveness. This is why many fear going through it. But once you’ve received this sacrament and understand its purpose and process, you’ll surely come to love it and feel better as you come back to God and restore your relationship with Him and the Church.