“When we feel the loving presence of God more deeply, we also are more aware of our sin and the need for God’s cleansing love.”
– Fr. Bill
Sacrament of Reconciliation
In preparation for our communal celebration of Reconciliation with individual confession on April 2, I am repeating a series of articles I used for our Advent Reconciliation.
It is the Holy Spirit, who moves the follower of Christ, who has sinned to come to the Sacrament of Penance. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, we seek deeper and deeper conversion to God. This process of conversion through the Sacrament of Reconciliation has four elements: contrition, confessions, penance, and absolution. Contrition is the most important element. Without it, the sacrament cannot happen.
Contrition is heartfelt sorrow and aversion for the sin committed together with the intention of sinning no more. This heartfelt sorrow flows from awareness of God’s love, made manifest in Jesus.
In the revision of the ritual from the Second Vatican Council, prayers focusing on fear of hell were replaced by prayers focusing on God’s love for us and our love for God. People my age and older may remember memorizing that Act of Contrition that included, “I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell.” While a few still use that prayer, the new Act of Contrition (from 1973) acknowledges “I have sinned against You whom I should love above all things.”
I like to use the analogy of a window. On a cloudy day, the window looks ok. However, on a bright sunny day all the dirt is more visible. When we feel the loving presence of God more deeply, we also are more aware of our sin and the need for God’s cleansing love. Contrition is not based on fear; its source is love. Fear could be based on an image of God as harsh judge. Love flows from an image of God as a loving parent who wants the best for us.
Next week, I will focus on the element of confession. This may be a new element for some, since the parish has a long history of general absolution without individual confession. The archbishop has not granted me the necessary permission to continue that practice. This does give us the opportunity to take a fresh look at this sacrament.