Saturday, September 28, 2013

September Recollection: “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 5:20)

This day, September 28th, we held our monthly recollection. The moment of sharing was moderated by Father Stan ACHI on the theme of the sacrament of Penance.
Began with the Night Prayer yesterday Friday, this moment of reflection ended with the Eucharistic celebration presided over by Father Joachim AKE.

Here below the full text of this recollection.

Excursion in Luke 5:18-20
Jesus sets the spiritual and physical in the right perspective. Since sin was responsible for the man's paralysis, He deals with the cause first, then the effect. All actions are subject to the law of cause and effect; for every action there is a reaction. The man's physical ailment was not nearly as heavy a burden as his spiritual corruption. In reality, physical healing is meaningless without a sound mind. Psalm 103:3 can be seen as a prophecy that the Christ would forgive sins related to sickness and disease.

So must we realise it clearly today, Christ deals first with the spiritual problem—the forgiveness of sins—and then the physical problem—the physical affliction. Most people want it the other way around, putting greater emphasis on healing the physical ailment than fixing the spiritual problem. Solomon gives us the answer to which is more important: "The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?" (Proverbs 18:14). From God's perfect perspective, spiritual needs are always more critical than physical ones (Mark 8:36), so in this miracle, forgiveness precedes healing.

Jesus tells the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you." Seeing his friends' faith, Jesus' first words to the paralytic offer simple encouragement: "Be of good cheer." His comforting support refers directly to the forgiveness of the sufferer's sins. The paralytic, troubled by sin that had caused or was causing his suffering, now had reason for optimism. Having our sins forgiven always brings a deep relief and joy, even if the physical affliction is not healed. David's psalm on the joy of forgiveness speaks of this satisfying comfort: "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit" (Psalm 32:1-2).

For the Catechism of the Catholic Church, "Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God's forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation". (N°1440)

This Sacrament is the sacrament of forgiveness instituted by Christ for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as "the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace. (N° 1446)

Beneath the changes in discipline and celebration that this sacrament has undergone over the centuries, the same fundamental structure is to be discerned. It comprises two equally essential elements: on the one hand, the acts of the man who undergoes conversion through the action of the Holy Spirit: namely, contrition, confession, and satisfaction; on the other, God's action through the intervention of the Church. The Church, who through the bishop and his priests forgives sins in the name of Jesus Christ and determines the manner of satisfaction, also prays for the sinner and does penance with him. Thus the sinner is healed and re-established in ecclesial communion. (N°1448)

The Sacrament of Penance Today.
It is said that the sacrament of penance is in crisis today, because either people do not go for confession or priests do not want to hear confessions. Together with this, some worldly ideas, even inside the Church, hold that it is not necessary to confess sins to the priest.
Today I would like, by this time of Recollection reflect with you on this how important topic of the Sacrament of Penance. The goal, increase in us the thirst for this sacrament.

Don Orione and the Sacrament of Penance.
As Sons of Divine Providence, we have a model of love and thirst for the Sacrament of Penance. I cannot lead to better our sharing and meditation without referring to our Founder, St. Luigi Orione.

Don Orione was a man of God, who knew how necessary to confess our sins was. That is why, he was always concerned about the sacrament of penance as penitent, confessor, educator and preacher, advising it and looking for new and “interesting” ways to approach people to the confession.

He never missed a chance to talk about his first confession with Don Bosco when he was his seminarian. This first confession with the great Turin saint (Don Bosco) was an event which would remain imprinted on Don Orione’s heart. Here is Don Orione's account of his first Confession, as he described it to the Salesian Fr. Carletti.

"...In my examination of conscience I filled three notebooks with my sins."
"You were a great sinner even then," Fr. Carletti wittily noted.
"A truly great sinner, no," replied Don Orione, "but, you know, at the beginning it was normal to be a bit scrupulous and we did not know the full meaning of sins. In order to make sure that I did not leave anything out I had looked at two or three printed lists that assisted the examination of conscience by setting down the commandments of God and of the Church, the seven capital sins, the sins against nature, etc.  I copied them all down, filling three notebooks. I accused myself of everything: setting traps for my neighbour, refuting known truths, etc. I replied in the negative to one question alone: 'Have you killed anyone?' 'Not this one,' I wrote next to it. I awaited my turn in trepidation, with one hand in the notebook pouch and the other on my breast. 'What will Don Bosco say?' I wondered, 'when I read all these things out to him?' My turn came. Don Bosco looked at me for a second and, before I could open my mouth, he stretched out his hand and said: 'All right, give me these sins of yours.' I held out the first notebook, which I had taken, all dog-eared, from the bottom of the pouch. He took it and, without even opening it, tore it to pieces. 'Let's have the others.' These suffered the same fate. 'And now,' he concluded, 'your confession is made. Don't give another thought to what you have written and don't dwell on the past.' He then smiled at me in his special way." (Domenico Sparpaglione, Il Beato Luigi Orione, Roma, Ed. Paoline, 1980.)

From this experience of our Founder, let’s pick just a piece of words: “Don’t dwell on the past”.
Many time as Christians we like dwelling on the past. We are even strong enough building a house for our sins. And easily, we forget about the richness of the Sacrament of Penance.
We have started by setting out the premise that as a sacrament the Confession seems to have no attendance today. One may pick on the words saying:
“That which has been is what will be,
That which is done is what will be done,
And there is nothing new under the sun.”
as it is written in the book of Ecclesiastes 1:9. And so it is. For example, even in the time of our Founder, men usually do not like to go for confession, because of pride, prejudices, shame or other reasons. Knowing this, Don Orione thought about an interesting way to invite them for confession. And so will he invent  the famous “Confession and Coffee”: “Come! - I'll be waiting for you. … Confession and coffee – After the Communion, please, do me the honour of receiving you all in the house behind the shrine. I'll offer you good coffee.” May be just a way to attract, but the main idea is that “It's time that you and I begin seriously to live as good Christians: the one who has time, does not wait anymore. My dear friends, we're not beasts, we have a soul, we must save it!”
May we leave now what concern Don Orione for a moment and talk about the beauty of this sacrament.

Penance, sacrament of the New Law instituted by Christ.
Penance is a sacrament of the New Law instituted by Christ in which forgiveness of sins committed after baptism is granted through the priest's absolution to those who with true sorrow confess their sins and promise to satisfy for the same. It is called a "sacrament" not simply a function or ceremony, because it is an outward sign instituted by Christ to impart grace to the soul. As an outward sign it includes the actions of the penitent in presenting himself to the priest and accusing himself of his sins, and the actions of the priest in pronouncing absolution and imposing satisfaction. This whole procedure is usually called, from one of its parts, "confession", and it is said to take place in the "tribunal of penance", because it is a judicial process in which the penitent is at once the accuser, the person accused, and the witness, while the priest pronounces judgment and sentence. The grace conferred is deliverance from the guilt of sin and, in the case of mortal sin, from its eternal punishment; hence also reconciliation with God, justification. Finally, the confession is made not in the secrecy of the penitent's heart nor to a layman as friend and advocate, nor to a representative of human authority, but to a duly ordained priest with requisite jurisdiction and with the "power of the keys", i.e., the power to forgive sins which Christ granted to His Church.

What Penance is really or not?
By way of further explanation it is needful to correct certain erroneous views regarding this sacrament which not only misrepresent the actual practice of the Church but also lead to a false interpretation of theological statement and historical evidence. From what has been said it should be clear:
1. •     The penance is not a mere human invention devised by the Church to secure power over consciences or to relieve the emotional strain of troubled souls; it is the ordinary means appointed by Christ for the remission of sin.
2. •     It is not true that for the Catholic the mere "telling of one's sins" suffices to obtain their forgiveness. Without sincere sorrow and purpose of amendment, confession avails nothing, the pronouncement of absolution is of no effect, and the guilt of the sinner is greater than before.
3. •     While this sacrament as a dispensation of Divine mercy facilitates the pardoning of sin, it by no means renders sin less hateful or its consequences less dreadful to the Christian mind; much less does it imply permission to commit sin in the future.
The list may be so long for what means to be clarify about this sacrament. The only one most important should be to learn really how to practice it and also be faithful in its effects.

What did the Catechism say about how to practice this sacrament?
The Celebration of the Sacrament of Penance
N°1480: Like all the sacraments, Penance is a liturgical action. the elements of the celebration are ordinarily these: a greeting and blessing from the priest, reading the word of God to illuminate the conscience and elicit contrition, and an exhortation to repentance; the confession, which acknowledges sins and makes them known to the priest; the imposition and acceptance of a penance; the priest's absolution; a prayer of thanksgiving and praise and dismissal with the blessing of the priest.

The spiritual effects of the sacrament of Penance
"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." (N°1468)
This sacrament reconciles us with the Church. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. The sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it. (N°1469)
The spiritual effects of the sacrament of Penance are (N° 1496):
- reconciliation with God by which the penitent recovers grace;
- reconciliation with the Church;
- remission of the eternal punishment incurred by mortal sins;
- remission, at least in part, of temporal punishments resulting from sin;
- peace and serenity of conscience, and spiritual consolation;
- an increase of spiritual strength for the Christian battle.

“Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.”

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