Chapter 18. Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation • 235
Because of human weakness, the new life in Christ, which we receive
in the Sacraments of Initiation, is often threatened by sin. Moreover,
we all face sickness and death. God constantly reaches out to us to
reconcile ourselves to him. Through the gifts of the Church, Jesus, our
divine physician, has given us the Sacraments of Healing—Penance and
Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick—for the forgiveness of sins
and the ministry to the sick and the dying.
Sins committed after Baptism are forgiven in the Sacrament of
Penance and Reconciliation, also called the Sacrament of Forgiveness,
Confession, and Conversion. We will refer to the Sacrament both as
Penance and as Reconciliation, using the terms interchangeably.
Divine mercy and conversion from sin are constant themes in
Scripture. God’s mercy makes possible the repentance of the sinner and
the forgiveness of sin. Time and again in the Old Testament, the sins of
the people are met with God’s outreach of mercy and the invitation to
be healed and return to a covenant relationship. Even when the beloved
King David lied, committed adultery, and caused the death of an inno-
cent man, he was not beyond God’s mercy, to which he had a humble
recourse. Psalm 51 gives us words to express the kind of contrition and
to trust in God’s forgiveness that David felt after committing these sins.
JESUS FORGAVE SINS
The Gospels provide numerous examples of Christ’s mission to forgive
sins. When a paralytic was lowered through the roof of a house and
placed at his feet, Christ first forgave the man’s sins and then cured his
affliction (cf. Lk 5:17-26). When a sinful woman knelt at his feet in the
house of Simon the Pharisee, Jesus forgave her sins because she had
“loved much,” unlike the Pharisee, who had little insight into his own
sinfulness (cf. Lk 7:36-50). Christ’s parable of the prodigal son illustrates
the sublime meaning of his earthly ministry, which is to forgive sins, rec-
oncile people to God, and lead us to true happiness (cf. Lk 15:11-32).
Jesus died on the Cross and rose from the dead to reconcile sinful
people with God through the forgiveness of sins and the gift of new life
with the Triune God. Even on the Cross, he forgave those who were kill-
ing him and had mercy on the repentant thief.