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Forgive us our trespasses…

The Return of the Prodigal Son (detail) c. 1669 Oil on canvas, The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

The Return of the Prodigal Son (detail) c. 1669 Oil on canvas, The Hermitage, St. Petersburg- (Rembrandt)

The key to a healthy understanding of the value of confession lies in the recognition of the real, objective social nature of the drama of sin and forgiveness. This recognition has always been part of the traditional ritual practice of confession, even after the “one-on-one” encounter between the penitent and the confessor replaced ceremonies that included a public recognition and confession of certain sins. And although the absolution from sins is indeed a personal judgment based on the authority of the individual priest, the ritual includes a prayer that the penitent be granted pardon and peace “through the ministry of the Church.”

Forgiveness is not conditional. All that is required is for the sinner to accept the divine mercy unconditionally offered to him. The power of God’s mercy builds our defense, so to speak, on our acknowledgment of the truth of His love and our inability to respond to it. The rite of confession is an acknowledgment by the Church of the objectivity of God’s mercy. To “go to confession” means to join the Church in the celebration of this truth.

The Sacrament of Penance is a beautiful Sacrament through which we are reconciled to God, ourselves and our neighbours. Remember the words of St. Paul: “God is rich in mercy; because of His great love for us, He brought us to life with Christ when we were dead in sin” (Eph 2:4).

From the Compendium of the Catholic Church

298. When did he (Christ) institute this sacrament?

1485

The risen Lord instituted this sacrament on the evening of Easter when he showed himself to his apostles 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.” (John 20:22-23).

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 should embrace it as a gift from a loving God. ally 2

From the Compendium of the Catholic Church

231. What is sacramental grace?

1129, 1131
1134, 2003

Sacramental grace is the grace of the Holy Spirit which is given by Christ and is proper to each sacrament. This grace helps the faithful in their journey toward holiness and so assists the Church as well to grow in charity and in her witness to the world.

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.)

forgive us our trspassese as we forgive

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4 Comments

  1. I have found I can forgive most sins of others but not all as they are esp so heinous acts.

    Reply
    • I think that to forgive is difficult from our point of view, as our perspective and understanding of issues are so varied and multi-faceted.
      At one time I was being bullied by a colleague at work and I confessed my dislike for her, as I’d endured many an anxious hour at my place of work. My confessor suggested thatI pray for her. THAT was tough to do. It took me a long few months….but eventully I started praying for her and slowly my attitude toward her changed and I began to view her through different lenses.
      I continue to have dealings with her on a daily basis, but am not wrought with anxiety anymore. I see her as someone who is hurt and broken, needing the mercy of God through my actions and choices.
      I will never forget the pain and anguish she caused me. I am the one who greets her first, exchanges pleasantries and reaches out to her for this reason only: she too is a child of God, just as I am.
      Forgiving others has changed my outlook on those that have hurt me (the experience above being but one example). It is by no means easy. It is a difficult decision, but one that has changed me forever.

      Reply
  2. Love this post! Coming from a Reformed church background, confession was very difficult for me to accept. I was very defensive of my belief that I only needed to go to God for forgiveness. I have finally come to look forward to confession and the sacrament of penance. I remember before I was always wondering if God had really heard my prayer and forgiven me for what I had done. Now I realize that He has given us the gift of confession and penance so that we have the assurance of forgiveness through His grace.

    Reply
    • This is the beauty of the Sacrament. Without Grace we achieve little, our spiritual battery runs on low and never quite fans into a flame.

      Reply

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