Chapter 18. Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation • 243
just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrong-
doing. (1 Jn 1:8-9)
In our churches, we behold Jesus nailed to the Cross, an image that
reminds us of his painful sacrifice to bring about the forgiveness of all
our sins and guilt. If there were no sin, Jesus would not have suffered
for our redemption. Each time we see the crucifix, we can reflect on the
infinite mercy of God, who saves us through the reconciling act of Jesus.
Despite society’s efforts to downplay the reality of sin, there is an
instinctive recognition of its existence. Children generally know, even
when not told, when they have done something morally wrong. Adults
readily admit the evil of terrorism, unjust war, lies, unfair treatment of
people, and similar matters. Society as a whole must also learn to admit
the evil of abortion, physician-assisted suicide, and obtaining stem cells
from embryos, which results in the death of embryonic human life.
Denying evil corrupts us spiritually and psychologically. Rationalizing
our own evil is even more destructive.
Jesus laid the foundation for the Sacrament of Penance during his
ministry and confirmed it after his Resurrection. When Peter asked the
number of times a person should forgive, Jesus told him that there should
be no limit to forgiving. Jesus forgave Peter his triple denial, showed
mercy to the woman taken in adultery, forgave the thief on the cross, and
continually witnessed the mercy of God.
Jesus entrusted the ministry of reconciliation to the Church. The
Sacrament of Penance is God’s gift to us so that any sin committed
after Baptism can be forgiven. In confession we have the opportunity to
repent and recover the grace of friendship with God. It is a holy moment
in which we place ourselves in his presence and honestly acknowledge
our sins, especially mortal sins. With absolution, we are reconciled to
God and the Church. The Sacrament helps us stay close to the truth that
we cannot live without God. “In him we live and move and have our
being” (Acts 17:28). While all the Sacraments bring us an experience of
the mercy that comes from Christ’s dying and rising, it is the Sacrament
of Reconciliation that is the unique Sacrament of mercy.