The Sacrament of Second Chances

Man praying in the aisle of church

We all get second chances in life. Chances to start again or maybe right a wrong.  Chances to make a difference.

Pharisees held that God would be pleased when the Law was faithfully followed to the smallest detail. They could not understand the Christian point of view, that sinners who did not keep the Law could still please God by repenting.  If the Pharisees could not understand the impact of repentance, then they could not understand its connection with resurrection.  Just as God raised Jesus up after physical death, so He can raise sinners up after moral death. To turn again to God is to be “raised up” by God – to be given a second chance.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession is a sacrament of second chances. Jesus told us that Satan is “prince of this world” (John 14:30) so it’s hardly surprising that, surrounded by constant temptations, we find ourselves falling back, sometimes into even the same sin – so we may need a third chance or more!  Remember when Peter asked Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother who sins against him and suggested up to seven times? (Matthew 18:21) Jesus advised not seven but seventy-seven times – in other words our forgiveness should be limitless, thereby reflecting the nature of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness.  In effect and in spite of our sin, God continually calls us back to Himself and to the Church through His grace. This movement is called repentance or conversion; it consists of sorrow for past sins committed and a firm promise to try not to sin in the future. (Catechism 1489, 1490)

There are two types of repentance.  If repentance is based upon a love for God, it is called “perfect contrition”; such contrition forgives mortal sins if the intention to receive the sacrament of reconciliation (as soon as reasonably possible) is present. (1492, 1459).  If repentance is based upon other reasons (for instance fear or guilt), it is called “imperfect contrition.” (1492)

The sacrament of reconciliation consists of a penitent’s actions and the priest’s absolution. The penitent’s actions are:  repentance (an examination of conscience and true sorrow for sins committed), confession of sins to the priest who is acting “In persona Christi”, the intention to repair damage done and actions to repair such damage. (1486, 1491).  The sacrament allows the penitent the chance for self-honesty, spiritual counselling and the opportunity to right past wrongs. In the absolution, the priest recognises the process of conversion in the penitent and declares it complete. Indeed, sin has been forgiven.

Second chances are invitations to transition.  Christianity is a lifelong celebration of second chances, not a presumption of God’s mercy. That is why we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation, a chance the wipe the spiritual slate clean, a chance to start anew as a child of the Father.  How have you celebrated conversion this Lent? Have you encouraged those around you to do the same?  The church invites you to make plans with your family to celebrate the sacrament this week or next.  Extra confessions will be available at St. Edward’s this week as follows:

  • Wednesday 6th April:  9am – 10am, and after Mass until 11.30 am
  • Wednesday 6th April: 4.00 pm – 4.30 pm – confession in the hospital chapel for the hospital staff
  • Thursday 7th April:  10am – 11am (with Adoration and Benediction)
  • Thursday 7th April:  6pm – 7pm & after Mass until 8pm. (not socially distanced on this occasion)

Jesus, Son of God have mercy on me, a sinner