09 Penance and Reconciliation

posted Mar 14, 2018, 10:00 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 14, 2018, 10:00 AM ]
The new life in Christ that begins in Baptism may be weakened or lost through sin. Sin ruptures not only our relationship with God, but also with our brothers and sisters.

By the nourishing light of the Holy Spirit, we are able to prepare for the Sacrament of Penance by examining our consciences to identify those ways in which we are not in right relationship with God and with others. This examination also challenges us to recognise our own participation in the "structures of sin" that degrade others' lives and dignity.

Sin damages our relationship with God and neighbour.

In the Gospels, Jesus teaches that love of God and love of neighbour are intimately connected (Mt 22:38-39; Mk 12:29-31). When we sin against those in need by failing to act compassionately towards them, we ignore Christ Himself (Mt 25:31-46). In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, "Closing our eyes to our neighbour also blinds us to God" (Deus Caritas Est [God Is Love], no. 16). Sin ruptures our relationship with God and also with other members of the Body of Christ (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], no. 1440). Take a moment to consider ways that you have broken any of the Ten Commandments: Are there any false "gods" (e.g. material things, pleasure, etc.) that you place above God and other people? Have you treated family members or others with disrespect? Have you lied, gossiped, cheated, or stolen?

Sin is never an individual affair.

Sin damages our relationships with others and all of Creation. Thus, sin is never a purely individual affair and has social dimensions (Pope Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis [Sacrament of Charity], no. 20; Pope John Paul II, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia [Reconciliation and Penance], no. 15).

Sin becomes manifest in unjust structures.

The collective actions (or failure to act) of individuals create "structures of sin," which "grow stronger, spread, and become the source of other sins" (Pope John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis [On Social Concern], no. 36). For example, widespread poverty, discrimination, denial of basic rights, and violence result from many people's actions (or failure to act) because of greed, racism, selfishness, or indifference (Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, nos. 2, 16). We are all called to consider how we contribute to structures of sin in our personal, economic and public choices. For example, do we take into account the treatment of workers when we make purchases? How do our consumption choices contribute to environmental degradation? Are we aware and informed? Do we take the time to educate ourselves about issues that affect the community, and advocate on behalf of those who are poor and vulnerable?