Be Watchful is the “theme” our Liturgy Committee selected for us to be reflecting on during this Advent Season. Be Watchful is so important in our spiritual life, watching for the potential graces we can share is as well as watchful for the weaknesses in our life that could distract us from our relationship with our God and our brothers and sisters in Christ. With watchfulness in mind and as we prepare for our 30 young friends who will be celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation this coming Saturday I would to share a brief overview of the wonderful grace and mercy of this Sacrament. First a little theology and then some history of the Sacrament.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation only makes sense theologically within the context of conversion from sin and a turn to God. Even the apostles struggled to live as disciples of Jesus. For example, Peter wept bitterly over his triple denial of Christ but received the grace of conversion and expressed it with a threefold confession of love for Jesus (cf. Luke 22:54-62; John 21:15-19). Paul was converted from persecuting Christians to becoming one of the greatest disciples of Christ who ever lived (cf. Acts 9:1-31). These moments of conversion were only the beginning of their lifelong commitment to living in fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Obviously there are volumes written on the theological underpinnings of this Sacrament, these very brief comments are meant to point out this Sacrament is all about conversion away from our weaknesses (sin) to living a more grace filled life as a Christian in love with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This history of the Sacrament of Reconciliation comes from The Catechism of the Catholic Church which clearly says: “Over the centuries the concrete form in which the Church has exercised this power received from the Lord has varied considerably.
During the first centuries the reconciliation of Christians who had committed particularly grave sins after their Baptism was tied to a very rigorous discipline, according to which penitents had to do public penance for their sins before receiving reconciliation.
During the seventh century Irish missionaries, inspired by the Eastern monastic tradition, took to continental Europe the ‘private’ practice of penance, which does not require public and prolonged completion of penitential works before reconciliation with the Church.
This new practice envisioned the possibility of repetition and so opened the way to a regular frequenting of this sacrament. It allowed the forgiveness of grave sins and venial sins to be integrated into one sacramental celebration. In its main lines this is the form of penance that the Church has practiced down to our day” (CCC 1447).
Throughout the in the history of the Church, the Sacrament of Reconciliation has been celebrated in different ways. Beneath the changes, there have always been two essentials: the acts of the penitent and the acts of Christ through the ministry of the Church. Both go hand in hand. Conversion must involve a change of heart as well as a change of actions. Neither is possible without God's grace.
This brief description of the Theology and History of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is meant for encourage the adults of our Parish to take advantage of this wonderful grace giving instrument of our Church’s Sacramental system. Sometimes people shy away from Confession because they have forgotten: How to Prepare for Confession or forgotten the Act of Contrition or How to Examining Your Conscience or forgotten How to "GO" to Confession and What do I say. Please do not worry about any of these parts of the celebration of the Sacrament, I will lead you through the parts; all I ask you to do is to bring a “sincerity of heart seeking conversion”, be assured if you bring that I will do all I can do for you to know the healing and forgiving power of our God.
If you'd like to read more about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, go to the USCCB (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments-and-sacramentals/penance/index.cfm
Finally, and most importantly, please consider celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation during Advent, as you prepare for Christmas, I am available at 3:30 PM on Saturdays or call or email me to schedule an appointment.
Be Watchful as you continue your spiritual journey during this Advent Season.
Please continue to pray for peace in our world!
In peace and courage,