By: Fr. Jean Pierre Akueson, SVD
One of the sacraments that the Church strongly recommends us during the Lenten period is the sacrament of reconciliation. The sacrament of reconciliation is the manifestation of God’s love for all of us sinners. It is a way to discover the mercy of God, and the desire to welcome more and more his forgiveness and to make a place for him in our life.
But ignorance to its role in one’s Christian life makes it practically meaningless. Some people even condemn it and replace it with counseling. That is why Padre Antonio says: “They condemn confession and call it counseling and charge you for it. And you say you have seen the light.” Other people link the non-attendance to this sacrament with its mechanical aspect, hence the question “why is the confession so mechanical? ”
From this outset, we could say that confession is not mechanical because there is no catalog in which sins and their appropriate penances are written for the use of the priest confessor. Rather, the sacrament of reconciliation is a conversion process in which the priest helps the penitent to discover the impact of his or her actions (sin) on his relationship with God and his creation.
In order that the penitent may receive fully the graces offered by this sacrament, I would like to enumerate the different stages of this sacrament.
1- The preparation or examination of conscience: the penitent recalls all his sins, feels sorry or regret them and take a resolution to keep away from sin and any opportunity of sin.
2- Contrition: this is the most important aspect in the sacrament of reconciliation. Through it the penitent expresses the regret of his faults committed, his sincere sorrow for having offended God with the resolution not to sin again. Contrition is said to be ‘perfect’ when it is motivated by the love for God, and ‘imperfect’ when it is based on other motives. Through it the penitent opens his heart to the minister; The latter exercises a spiritual judgment in the name of Christ, by the power of the keys given to him to restore or / and retain sins.
3- Absolution: the priest judges and absolves the sins. He said, “May God our Father show you his mercy, and by the death and resurrection of his Son he reconciled the world with him and sent the Holy Spirit for the remission of sins.
The Church, that he may give you forgiveness and peace, and I, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, forgive all your sins. ”
Penance or satisfaction: the penitent receives penance to amend for his faults. It is important to say here that absolution becomes effective if the penitent does his penance.
“True conversion is accomplished by the recognition of our sins, followed by a change of life and the reparation of the harm done. The penance which the confessor provides, considers the personal situation of the penitent and promotes his/her spiritual good through patience and acceptance of one’s daily crosses.
In conclusion, we can say that the concept of the mechanization of the sacrament of reconciliation comes from the fact that our world has lost its sense of sin [separation from God and neighbors] and everything in it plunges into subjectivity.