Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain, through God’s mercy, forgiveness for the offense commited against Him. They are, thus, also reconciled with the Church which they had injured by their sin, and which had through charity, example and prayer, worked towards their conversion.
It is called the sacrament of conversion because through the sacrament Jesus’ call to conversion is carried out, as well as the effort of returning to the Father’s house, from which the sinner was separated by sin. It is called the sacrament of Penance, because it consecrates a personal and ecclesiastical journey of conversion, repentance and satisfaction on the part of the Christian sinner.
It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation because God’s love, which reconciles, is bestowed on the sinner. He who lives in God’s merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call: “First be reconciled with your brother” (Mt 5:24).
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1422-1424
The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation flows directly from the Paschal Mystery. In fact, on the eve of Easter the Lord appeared to the disciples, who were locked in the Upper Room, and after addressing them with the greeting, “Peace be with you!”, he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven” (Jn 20:21-23). This passage reveals to us the most profound dynamic contained in this Sacrament. Firstly, the fact that the forgiveness of our sins is not something we can give ourselves. I cannot say: I forgive my sins. Forgiveness is asked for, is asked of another, and in Confession we ask for forgiveness from Jesus. Forgiveness is not the fruit of our own efforts, but rather a gift of the Holy Spirit who fills us with the wellspring of mercy and of grace that flows unceasingly from the open heart of the Crucified and Risen Christ. Secondly, it reminds us that we can truly be at peace only if we allow ourselves to be reconciled, in the Lord Jesus, with the father and with our brethren. And we have all felt this in our hearts, when we have gone to confession with a soul weighed down and with a little sadness; and when we receive Jesus’ forgiveness we feel at peace, with that peace of the soul which is so beautiful, and which only Jesus can give, only Him.
Over time, the celebration of this Sacrament has passed from a public form – because at first it was made publicly – to a personal one, to the confidential form of Confession. This however, does not entail losing the ecclesial matrix that constitutes its vital context. In fact, the Christian community is the place where the Spirit is made present, who renews hearts in the love of God and binds the brethren as in Christ Jesus. That is why it is not enough to ask the Lord for forgiveness in one’s own mind and heart, but why instead it is necessary to humbly and trustingly confess one’s sins to a minister of the Church.
In the celebration of this Sacrament, the priest represents not only God but also the whole community, who sees itself in the weakness of each of its members, who listens and is moved by his repentance, and who is reconciled with him, which cheers him up and accompanies him on the path of conversion and human and Christian growth. One might say: I confess only to God. Yes, you can say to God “forgive me” and confess your sins, but our sins are also committed against our brethren, and against the Church. That is why it is necessary to ask pardon of the Church, and of our brethren in the person of the priest. “But Father, I am ashamed …”. Shame is also good, it is healthy to feel a little shame, because being ashamed is salutary. In my country when a person feels no shame, we say that he is “shameless”; a “sin verguenza”. But shame too does good, because it makes us more humble, and the priest receives this confession with love and tenderness and forgives us on God’s behalf. Also from a human point of view, in order to unburden oneself, it is good to talk with a brother and tell the priest these things which are weighing so much on my heart. And one feels that one is unburdening oneself before God, with the Church, with his brother. Do not be afraid of Confession! When one is in line to go to Confession, one feels all these things, even shame, but then when one finishes Confession one leaves feeling free, great, beautiful, forgiven, pure and happy. This is the beauty of Confession! I would like to ask you – but don’t say it aloud, everyone respond in his heart: when was the last time you made your confession? Everyone think about it … Two days ago, two weeks, two years, twenty years, forty years? Everyone count, everyone say ‘when was the last time I went to confession?’ And if much time has passed, do not lose another day. Go, the priest will be good to you. Jesus is there, and Jesus is more benevolent than priests, Jesus receives you, He receives you with so much love. Be courageous and go to Confession!
Dear friends, celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation means being enfolded in a warm embrace: it is the embrace of the Father’s infinite mercy. Let us recall that beautiful, beautiful parable of the son who left his home with the money of his inheritance. He wasted all the money and then, when he had nothing left, he decided to return home, not as a son but as a servant. His heart was filled with so much guilt and shame. The surprise came when he began to speak, to ask for forgiveness. His father did not let him speak. He embraced him, kissed him, and he began to make merry. But I am telling you: each time we go to confession, God embraces us. God rejoices! Let us advance on this road. May God bless you!
Every baptised person who in conscience recognises that he or she has sinned. With true contrition and sincere repentance, they must present themselves before the priest, confessing their sins to receive sacramental grace with absolution.
At least once a year at Easter time. However, I must confess whenever I consciously recognise myself in need of the grace of reconciliation.
For the Christian, the grace of sacramental absolution is only received in Confession. Nothing replaces the verbal confession of sins and individual absolution given by the priest.
I must do a serious examination of conscience before God who we know is a Merciful Father. I can use some models for the examination of conscience, if it is easier. It is preferable to know the times and places where priests are available to receive confession, or personally arrange a time.
Any questions or requests for information should preferably be presented to the parish registry office, in order to obtain the most appropriate response.
Click here to learn about the rules in force at the Patriarchate of Lisbon regarding the celebration of the Sacraments.