Christ Jesus some two thousand years ago came into this world to bring
redemption for our sins. He did this through his death and resurrection, or what
we refer to as the pascal mystery. We still encounter the saving presence of the
Lord in the sacraments and in the Word. In each and every sacrament we come face
to face with "the grace of God our Savior" (Titus 2:11). It is this redemption
of sins aspect of the sacraments that I will be examine. In the past couple of
century we have focused are attention primarily on the Sacrament of Penance as
the means to obtain forgiveness of sins after Baptism. We have come to focus on
it so much that it has come to be, for most Catholics, understood as the only
sacrament though which forgiveness of sins is obtained. This belief as we will
see is an incorrect understanding because we encounter the saving presence of
the Lord in other sacraments and ways not only in the Sacrament of Penance.
However the Sacrament of Penance is always to be understood as the primary
sacrament for forgiveness of mortal sins after Baptism.
To better understand how this can be let us first look at the general
background of the development of the Sacrament of Penance. The Sacrament of
Penance has it's roots even as far back as the day of resurrection when Christ
breathed out the spirit on the disciples and said to them, 'Receive the Holy
Spirit. If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone's
sins, they are retained.' (John 20:22-23). In Paul's second letter to the
Corinthians we see Paul developing this teaching of Christ, when he says 'All
this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the
ministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to
himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the
message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his
appeal through us. We beseech you...be reconciled to God. For our sake he made
him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness
of God( 2 Cor. 5:18-21). These two passages would seem to be part of the
sacrament's biblical foundation. The sacrament itself would seem to have come
about as a result of the early Church's struggle to recognize that Baptism may
forgive sin but it didn't end the str...
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form of reconciliation that reconciles the sinner with the whole Body of Christ,
the Church. It would seem to me sense the early Church did not see all sins as
needing the Sacrament of Penance there is no reason not to belief that venial
sins are forgiven in other sacraments and rituals. We even have proof that
saints such as St. Benedict and St. Augustine held that we could find
forgiveness in other ways then just that of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Dudley, Martin: Confession and Absolution: 1990, The Liturgical Press (243.4,
Hamelin, Leonce: Reconciliation in the Church: 1980, The Liturgical Press (243.4,
Jeep, Elizabeth: The Rite of Penance: Commentaries Volume Two, Implementing the
Rite: 1976, The Liturgical Conference (243.4, L782r v.2).
Keifer, Ralph: The Rite of Penance: Commentaries Volume One, Understanding the
Document: 1975, The Liturgical Conference (243.4, L782r v.1).
Longley, Alfred: Healing and Forgiveness, A New Penitential: 1976, World Library
Publications Inc. (243.4, L856)
Mitchell, Nathan, OSB: The Rite of Penance: Commentaries Volume Three,
Background and Directions: 1978, The Liturgical Conference (243.4, L782r v.3).
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