Sacrament of Reconciliation
1. Christian concept of sin is always associated with its forgiveness. (Eg. Of Prodigal Son. His Father was always waiting for him to receive him back). Membership in the Kingdom and faith in Jesus Christ are irrevocably associated with forgiveness of sins (Mc. 1/15, Acts. 2/38)). In the Nicene Creed, we confess, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”
2. Who CanForgive Sins?God and God alone. Since sin is a turning away from God, the sinner can be taken back to Communion with God by God and God alone. Jesus, the Son of Man, has forgiven the sins of the paralytic (Lc. 5/20) of the sinful woman (Lc. 7/47). In the mystery of Salvation history, Jesus has entrusted the ministry of forgiving sins to the spirit-filled church (Jn. 20/23). By assigning the ministry of forgiving the sins to the spirit-filled church, Jesus empowers the church to actualise a new creation, new humanity relieved of the slavery of sin. Every forgiveness of sins affects a new girth of a sinner by the newly conferred freedom from his sins, as it happened in the care of the prodigal Son.
3. Confession to a Priest. The authority for forgiving sins conferred by Christ to the Church is exercised by the Bishops, representing the Apostles, by the priests, as Bishops delegates. The Priest administers absolution of sinwith authority entrusted to him by Christ Himself. After the celebration of the Eucharist,the administration of the sacrament of confession is the second most important duty of the Priest.
4. Different forms of confessing different Churches and Ecclesial Communities. Protestants, as a whole, believe that God forgives a believer's sins when it is acknowledged before God. This attitude reflects their belief that it is faith alone that justifies it. In the Mar Thomma Church, immediately before receiving Holy Communion, the faithful privately acknowledge their sins before the Lord, and “pardon of offences” is administered to them by the Priest. In the Orthodox and Jacobite Churches confessing one’s sins to the priest on the eve of receiving Holy Communion is still in use. In all Rites of the Catholic church, confessing one's sins to the Priest, known as an auricular confession (to the ears of the Priest) and receiving absolution from him, is very much in use. In deciding the mode of admission, the distinction between the private and public formshas to be acknowledged. The examples quoted where Jesus forgives sin was in the public forum. The violations of the ten commandments, for instance, have an open or public touch attached to them. E.g. In the case of murder. Returning to God in this matter should have a generalcontact too. To the leper who was cured, Jesus commands: Go to the priest to prove to everyone that you are healed (Mc. 1/44).Many churches demand confession and insist on making the annual confession and communion a requirement for holding any “office” in the church (Ref. P.L).
Sin and Its Effects on Sin
1. Sin is a word, deed, or intention by which man turns deliberately and freely against God's love and ignores Him. By ignoring or violating an order set by God, one turns away from Him; like committing murder, one turns away from God who commanded: “don’t kill”. By eating the fruit from the tree of knowledge, our first parents were not merely ignoring God’s command but were turning away from Him. Sin ultimately turns to oneself, making oneself the centre of his life and avoiding God from one’s life and value system. Sin is always pleasing tooneself but is understood only when one turns back again to God.
2. As there is intensity in one’s closeness to God, power is possible in one turning away from God too. Serious sins destroy one’s love for God and cut a person off from God, violating a law or value laid down by God(like murder, blasphemy, adultery, complete forgetfulness of God, etc.). When they are committed with full knowledge and consent of the will, the man starts living estranged from God, as the prodigal son lived after leaving his Father. They are known as mortal Sins, sins that make the spiritual life dead. Sins committed without full knowledge or consent are known as venial sins that disturb man’s relationship with God but do not severe it.
3. There are vices and harmful habits that weaken/ dull man’s conscience and thus incline a person to evil and habitually draw him to sin. Habits like pride, avarice, envy, anger, lust, and gluttony are not sins but easily lead a person to sin. A person cannot be held responsible for the sins committed by others, not even by one’s parents. However, one is held guilty for the sins committed even under orders (murder),seducing(prostitution), false testimony, purchasing stolen goods, etc.
4. One of the tragedies of modern man is his loss of sense of Sin (guilt) by frequent repetition of sinful actions (habitual stealing) and persuasion (by society or friends). For those who have lost the sense of Sin, Sacraments (confession, Eucharist and in some cases, even the anointing of the sick) become unwanted botheration or get rejected. In many such cases, retreats and counselling would help.
A Good Confession
1. Every sacrament combines God extending his loving hand to save and accept the faithful into the loving communion with him and the Faithfull’s response to it. The primary virtue involved is Love, God’s love welcoming back the Prodigal Son, and the latter's earnestness to return to his Father’s love. In the sacrament of confession, what is involved inrestoringthe love of God that is lost for the penitent? Restoration of love once lost demands a severe effort toreturn to it. A well-made confession becomes a means of relinking the sinner to his loving Father in Heaven.
2. The five steps of a well-made confession are
- Remembering the sins/violation of God’s commandments after the previous confession
- Genuine sorrow for the sins committed.
- Making a firm resolution not to indulge in or committing them anymore
- Confessing the sins to a priest
- Thank God for the gift of confession, and do the penance enjoined by the priest
3. We are all in danger of confessing a matter of habit or routine. The effectiveness of confession as a means for returning to the love of God is the genuineness of the resolution the penitent makes not to offend God anymore in future. This becomes possible only when the penitent realises the lossthey incurred during the time they lived cut off from the love of God, as it happened to the prodigal son. Hediscovered the misery he lived in after leaving his Father's house. Turning to the gospel, we find Jesus making confusion an occasion for confessing one’s sine and a means for increasing one’s love for Jesus. Regarding the sinful woman declares: she loved much, and her many sins are fore given (Lc.7/47). Forgiveness demands greater love.
4. How often should one go to confession?
Better not to make a hard and fast time frame for going to confession. It may be good to go to confession whenever a guilt feeling burdens one. Even when one is free of such guilt, it will undoubtedly be good to go to confession at regular intervals and confess one's shortcomings and the lost occasions for doing some good for others. It is good to remember that the recent Popes used to reveal every week, and Pope Francis went to St. Peters Basilica stands in Q, made his Confession there and immediately heard a few confessions for some time.