Tuesday, April 18, 2006

WHOSE SINS YOU FORGIVE ARE FORGIVEN THEM.

In the ancient liturgy of the Church, today is know as Dominica in Albis, White Sunday. Those who had received the Sacrament of Baptism on Easter Sunday wore the same white garment to Mass the following Sunday because the rebirth of baptism is a life long commitment.
By the decree of Pope John Paul II, the first Sunday after Easter is Divine Mercy Sunday. Actually these two ideas do not conflict but rather are complimentary. Although we have been washed clean in baptism, we are sinners still. The Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ is our hope. Divine mercy Sunday is the ideal time to reflect once again on the Sacrament of Confession.
The Sacrament of Penance is the ordinary means for the forgiveness of sins committed after baptism. This is the unmistakably clear teaching of the Roman, Catholic Church. The new Universal Catechism confirms the same doctrine taught in the old Baltimore Catechism. Indeed, it is even more emphatic and precise. On the Second Sunday of Easter, Holy Mother Church recalls Our Lord’s institution of the Sacrament of Penance. Our Lord said to the Apostles: "Receive the Holy Spirit; if you forgive a man's sins they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound."
On March 12, 1994, the Pope, in an address to the confessors of Rome's Basilicas, said: "It is really God who is offended by sin and it is God who forgives sin. It is He who scrutinizes `what is in man,’ that is the individual conscience. God has graciously associated the human priest with this healing, sanctifying conversion, raising him to the ineffable privilege of acting in persona Christi."
With these words, the Pope is teaching the Church that the priest forgives sins acting in the very person of Jesus Christ. He acts neither as the representative of Jesus Christ nor in the place of Jesus Christ, but rather, in the very person of Jesus Christ. In confession, the priest sacramentally becomes one with Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest. Like Our Blessed Lord, he becomes the mediator between God and man. He intercedes for us, prays for us, and advises us. Yes, at times, he must admonish, but if he does, he must do so with the "aroma of Christ" (2Cor 2:15). Like Jesus, the priest prays, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Acting in the Person of Jesus Christ, the priest of Jesus Christ forgives our sins with the words of absolution: "I absolve you from your sins, in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." What a consolation to a spirit that has been broken by sin and restored by God’s mercy.
The Priest of Jesus Christ has the power to forgive every sin, no matter how vile or frequent they may be. This power is a living witness to God's infinite mercy. When the priest lifts his hand in absolution, the Precious Blood of Christ drips from his hands washing our sins clean. Moreover, in confession we are alone with God in the inviolable sanctuary of the confessional with the priest at our side. Under no circumstances, may the priest reveal a penitent’s sins. This is known as the Sacramental Seal. The Holy Father also said: "Church law binds the priest to total silence usque ad sanguinis effusionem {even to the shedding of his last drop of blood}." To this rule of silence, there is absolutely no dispensation or exception of any kind. The sacredness of the sacramental seal is the Church’s guarantee to penitents that their sins will never be revealed under any circumstances.
As penitents, we must have sorrow for our sins and make a firm purpose never to commit them again. Then we must confess our mortal sins in number and kind, what we did and how many times that we did it. If there are no mortal sins, we can either confess some or all of our venial sins or some sin of the past. Finally, we must do the penance that the priest imposes on us. It is just that simple: sorrow, confession and satisfaction.
During this Easter Season, if we have not been to Confession, let us do so now. Even if we have committed no mortal sins, the frequent confession of venial sins is vitally important. Many graces flow from frequent confession. In confession, we encounter Our Lord Jesus in His Priesthood, in His mercy, in His forgiveness and in His love. As we have read so often in the Gospels, we too hear those wonderful words of Our Savior: Go and sin no more! Your sins are forgiven. Praised be Jesus Christ on this wonderful feast of Divine Mercy Sunday! Amen!

Father Richard J. Rego, S.T.L.

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