Living in the Two Hearts

My Spiritual Insights and Musings

The Sacrament of Reconciliation: Part I

Posted by Anne Elizabeth on September 4, 2008

It seems this post will begin with some definitions and purpose statements as, together, we explore the Catholic Church’s sacrament of Reconciliation a.k.a. Confession.

First, what is the definition of a SacramentThe Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that a Sacrament is:

An efficacious sign of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us through the work of the Holy Spirit.  The sacraments (called “mysteries” in the Eastern Churches) are seven in number: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Penance or Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Holy Orders, and Matrimony.  ~Catechism of the Catholic Church, Glossary – Sacrament (emphasis added)

“An efficacious sign of grace…” defines efficacious as: Producing or capable of producing a desired affect. What kind of affect do you suppose?  We have the answer above, by which divine life is dispensed.  The dispensing of divine life is that which this sign of grace produces.

Interesting… and this is a Sacrament we’re talking about here, not just Reconciliation, but also Baptism, Confirmation, the Eucharist, etc, etc…   So, this divine life of grace is available any time we are “dealing with” a Sacrament?  Yep.  Pretty cool!

Okay, so let’s take a look at the Sacrament of Reconciliation a.k.a. Confession, continuing with why it’s so important, since we’ve already established that it will, in fact, give us the grace of the divine life, by right of it being a Sacrament.

To be Reconciled is to reestablish a close relationship between… to settle or to resolve… to bring oneself to accept… to make compatible or consistent ~ Heritage.

You’ll see in a little while why I used all four definitions.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship.”~ CCC §1468

Why would we need restoring to God’s grace ?  What separated us from His grace that we would need restoring?  Well, if you return for a moment back to Sin and Redemption part 1, when we spoke of what SIN REALLY DOES, you might remember that it’s primary function is to separate us from the Love of God. As all of us know, SIN IS VERY EFFECTIVE, and succeeds every time.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us:

Through the sacraments of Christian initiation, man receives the new life of Christ. Now we carry this life “in earthen vessels,” and it remains “hidden with Christ in God.” We are still in our “earthly tent,” subject to suffering, illness, and death.  This new life as a child of God can be weakened and even lost by sin. ~ CCC§1420; cf 1Cor 4:7; Col 3:3; 2Cor 5:1(emphasis added)

Therefore, it is even more important that we do all that we can to keep not only our “right relationship” with God, but also our Salvation intact: “It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.” ~ Luke 15:32 – Parable of the Prodigal Son

Sin doesn’t just damage our relationship with God, but damages our relationship with each other and truthfully with the entire Body of Christ:

Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. The sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it. In this sense it does not simply heal the one restored to ecclesial communion, but has also a revitalizing effect on the life of the Church which suffered from the sin of one of her members. Re-established or strengthened in the communion of saints, the sinner is made stronger by the exchange of spiritual goods among all the living members of the Body of Christ, whether still on pilgrimage or already in the heavenly homeland: ~ CCC§1469; cf 1Cor 12:26

The Church doesn’t teach the “Communion of Saints” for nothing!  It’s real and alive! – cf Eph 1:3-6; CCC§962, 1474; Rom 8:38-39

The Second Vatican Council teaches in Lumen Gentium §48-50: It must be recalled that… this reconciliation with God leads, as it were, to other reconciliations, which repair the other breaches caused by sin. The forgiven penitent is reconciled with himself in his inmost being, where he regains his innermost truth. He is reconciled with his brethren whom he has in some way offended and wounded. He is reconciled with the Church. He is reconciled with all creation.

Reconciliation doesn’t just occur in one area in life, but in all areas of our lives.  Why?  Because Grace cannot be contained within an earthen vessel!  I’ve said this in other posts, and I’ll say it in this one too.  When you have God’s GRACE within you, it will “spread out and spread over” anyone who happens to be in your company.  God cannot be contained just within us earthen vessels, cf Phil 2:5-7; Jer 20:9.

But Grace cannot enter in unless we empty ourselves of our sinfulness.  Can you take a glass cookie jar that is capable of holding many wonderful, gooey, chocolatey cookies, fill it with sand or mud and expect the cookies to fit too?  Of course not!

Can you take your best serving dish, fill it with the dirt from the vacuum cleaner, and then expect to place your best dish inside for others to enjoy?  Definitely not! Who would even think of trying such a thing?

Well folks, that’s what we do when we fill our lives with all sorts of dissipation and sin, and then expect to receive the efficacious grace available to us in the other  Sacraments (particularly the Eucharist), just because we’ve been baptized or confirmed.  It doesn’t work that way, never has, never will.  You must empty yourself of the BAD before you can receive the GOOD.  And that is why Reconciliation is SO IMPORTANT! It is the emptying of sin so that Grace can enter in: to bring oneself to accept… to make compatible or consistent…

You must accept your need for emptying of your sins in order to express consistency with living a life in Christ.  A life can only exist as a result of Grace entering and living within our lives.  Grace received in the Sacrament of Reconciliation as Christ extends His LOVE and Forgiveness for your failure to love Him completely.

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