“The Lord said to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). On the day of Pentecost Peter preached the forgiveness of sins by baptism: “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).
The Sacrament of Reconciliation frees us from sin, and restores our relationship with Christ in his Body, the Church.
Jesus’ mission from the Father was to bridge the gap that separated us from God ever since the first sin of Adam and Eve. Jesus, God-with-us, does this by coming to share our human life. He takes on all of our life, including our death, the wages of sin; but death could not hold him down. His dying for our sins on the cross frees us from sin; His rising from the dead on the third day restores us to life.
We receive, realise, and celebrate the new life of Christ in Baptism and Communion; we receive, realise, and celebrate his freeing us from sin in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Forgiveness and reconciliation is a free gift, won for us by Christ.
Like all the sacraments, it is a gift we need to make a move to receive.
Our reconciliation begins when we recognise we need it, own the distance we have moved from the pure love of God, and turn back to him in sorrow, like the prodigal son.
Like the prodigal father, long before we turn back to him, he is looking out for us, and as we approach him with sorrow and fear, he rushes out to embrace us with love.
How do I receive forgiveness and celebrate reconciliation?
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is celebrated in Saint Helen’s each Saturday from 5.45pm to 6.15pm. There are also shared celebrations of the Sacrament in the penitential seasons of Lent and Advent.
Outside those regular times you may also approach a priest at a convenient time for you both.
The sacrament is usually celebrated in the ‘Confessional‘, a small room or box arranged so that you may talk with the priest in privacy, either face to face, or from behind a curtain or screen. However, the sacrament can be celebrated anywhere.
Before celebrating the sacrament you will need to spend some time in prayer and preparation, acknowledging your need for God’s mercy, and ‘examining your conscience’ to find in what particulars you have strayed from God’s love and Christ’s way.
When you approach the priest, it is useful to let him know your circumstances; your family situation, your occupation, how long since you last celebrated the sacrament.
He may then offer you words of welcome or encouragement, or a scripture text to help your confession.
You then confess those sins, failings, attitudes and omissions which come between damage, disrupt, or destroy your relationship with God in Christ.
The priest may say a few words to help you think about a problem, encourage you to trust in God’s mercy, or suggest ways in which you could seek to change your behaviour, with the help of God.
He will suggest a penance of prayer or action by which you can express and acknowledge your need for repentance.
He will then ask you to express your sorrow in an ‘act of contrition’. After your prayer, he will pray for absolution, that your sins be washed away in the blood of Christ, and send you go out to sin no more.
Who can celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
All the Baptised can and need to celebrate the sacrament. It offers healing of our sins, restoration of our relationship with God in Christ, and strengthening with his grace, the indwelling of his Spirit.
Those whose situation is out of keeping with a Christian way of life, in a way that they cannot or are unwilling to change, are thereby unable to use this sacrament of conversion and renewal.
Children are usually brought to the sacrament by their parents and family after suitable preparation in home, parish, and school. There is usually a chance to mark this with a first celebration of Reconciliation in the child’s church community, usually in Lent. The Parish works with families to prepare their child for the Sacrament.
How often should I celebrate Reconciliation?
As often as you are conscious of a serious failure or rift in your relationship with God.
Regular confession helps us review the state of that relationship, check dangers to it, and make choices that will help it and us to grow and develop.