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The sacrament of the reconciliation

By Sean Martin
John Paul II Generation

God’s greatest attribute is his mercy. After the fall of Adam and Eve, the Lord did not abandon humanity to the powers of sin and death. God sent us His only begotten Son, our Redeemer King Jesus, who died on the cross and resurrected from the dead, so that our sins are forgiven and we may live with him for all eternity. “But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath. Indeed, if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, how much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life” (Romans 8-10).

What is the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
Reconciliation is the Sacrament of Healing that makes present among us the mystery of God’s love and His infinite ocean of mercy. It reconciles us with Christ and the Church after we have sinned.

Sin damages and may even sever completely our relationship with Christ and the Church, depending on whether it is venial or mortal. Venial sin is a less serious sin. Mortal sin is a serious sin that severs a person’s relationship with God completely. In order to commit a mortal sin, the matter of the act must be serious or grave (such as intentionally missing Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation without serious reason, the use of contraception, intentionally getting drunk or high, etc.); in addition, the person must have full knowledge of the sinful character of the act, and the person must have complete and deliberate consent or freely will the act.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is also known as Confession, Penance, the Sacrament of Conversion, and the Sacrament of Forgiveness. Each name or title for this Sacrament describes or highlights different facets of it.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation has many effects: all of a person’s sins are forgiven, eternal and at least a part of temporal punishment is satisfied, sanctifying grace is strengthened or restored, grace to avoid sin is received, and all merits and satisfactions lost with the loss of grace are restored (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1496).

Who can receive Reconciliation?
A baptized person of the age of discretion or reason, which has been defined at the age of seven, that has sinned and seeks reconciliation with Christ and His Church, may receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. St. Paul says that “for all have sinned and do need the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Therefore, all the baptized can benefit from the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Who is the minister of Reconciliation?
Jesus gave the power and authority to the Apostles and their successors to forgive people’s sins. “He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained’” (Jn. 20:22-23). Through Apostolic Succession our present day bishops and priests have received that same power given by Christ to forgive sins. Only bishops and priests have the authority to forgive and absolve sins.

What is needed for Reconciliation to be valid?
The essential elements for the Sacrament of Reconciliation are the proper form, matter, and intentions. The proper form in the Latin Rite is the words of absolution prayed by the minister “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The proper remote matter consists of the penitent’s sins committed after baptism, which have not been confessed; the proper proximate matter consists of the penitent’s contrition or sorrow for sins, the actual confession of sins by the penitent, and act of the completing or doing penance assigned to the penitent by the priest. The minister must intend to do what the Church intends for the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

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