The Sacrament of Penance (First Reconciliation)
The sacrament of reconciliation is about acknowledging and naming those times when we know we have done wrong, and then making peace and restoring relationships.
The sacrament of penance, or sacrament of reconciliation or confession, as it was previously called, is known as a sacrament of healing. This sacrament affirms the constant truth of God’s love and forgiveness for the times we fail and need forgiveness. God’s love for us is expressed in mercy, compassion, forgiveness and peace. For this reason, we can truly talk about celebrating reconciliation: what we celebrate is God’s love and delight in us, even when we make poor choices that result in sinfulness.
As humans, we have the capacity to think and to choose. As we grow in understanding, we learn that our thoughts, words and actions have an effect; not only on ourselves but on our relationships with God, others and our environment and that each of our choices has a consequence. Good choices result in positive outcomes. They strengthen friendships, build trust and confidence and strengthen family and community life. Good choices lead to a sense of happiness, peace and well-being. Poor choices lead to disappointment, sometimes broken relationships, a lack of peace, feelings of hurt, anger, brokenness and resentment.
When poor choices are made, something needs to happen before peace and healing can take place, and harmony and balance are restored. The sacrament of reconciliation provides us with an opportunity to restore relationships and the original state of blessing created by God, necessary to rebuild balance and harmony in our relationships with ourselves, with God, with others and the whole of creation.
When we come to celebrate the sacrament of penance, we go through the process of reflecting on our lives, we take responsibility for our poor choices that result in wrong doing (also named as our sinfulness), we express our sorrow and we ask for forgiveness. We also promise to make an effort to avoid making the same poor choices.
In the story of the shepherd and the lost sheep, Jesus tells of the joy of finding what is lost and restoring it to where it belongs. We can also feel lost when we have done something wrong. When we admit this and make amends for our wrongful actions our sense of loss then turns to joy, relief and peace.
Jesus said, “In the same way there is more happiness in heaven because of one sinner who turns to God than over ninety-nine good people who don’t need to.” Luke 15:7
Some information has been taken from Horan, Kathy (2009) Reconciliation, A practical workbook for parents and children