Jesus’ mission from the Father was to bridge the gap that separated us from God ever since the first sin of Adam and Eve. Jesus, God-with-us, does this by coming to share our human life. He takes on all of our life, including our death, the wages of sin; but death could not hold him down. His dying for our sins on the cross frees us from sin; His rising from the dead on the third day restores us to life.
We receive, realise, and celebrate the new life of Christ in Baptism and Communion; we receive, realise, and celebrate his freeing us from sin in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Forgiveness and reconciliation is a free gift, won for us by Christ.
Like all the sacraments, it is a gift we need to make a move to receive.
Our reconciliation begins when we recognise we need it, own the distance we have moved from the pure love of God, and turn back to him in sorrow, like the prodigal son.
Like the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15:11-32), long before we turn back to him, he is looking out for us, and as we approach him with sorrow and fear, he rushes out to embrace us with love.
Sin also has a social and spiritual dimension for us as the Body of Christ. As St Paul reminds us “If one part suffers, all parts suffer with it …” (1Cor 12:26). Reconciliation also restores our relationship with our brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.
How do I receive forgiveness and celebrate reconciliation?
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is celebrated in each church at set times, which you can find on the Parish newsletter and on the Community Web Pages.
Outside those regular times you may also approach a priest at a convenient time for you both.
The sacrament is usually celebrated in the ‘Confessional‘, a small room or box arranged so that you may talk with the priest in privacy, either face to face, or from behind a curtain or screen. However, the sacrament can be celebrated anywhere.
Before celebrating the sacrament you will need to spend some time in prayer and preparation, acknowledging your need for God’s mercy, and ‘examining your conscience’ to find in what particulars you have strayed from God’s love and Christ’s way.
When you approach the priest, it is useful to let him know your circumstances; your family situation, your occupation, how long since you last celebrated the sacrament.
He may then offer you words of welcome or encouragement, or a scripture text to help your confession.
You then confess those sins, failings, attitudes and omissions which come between damage, disrupt, or destroy your relationship with God in Christ.
The priest may say a few words to help you think about a problem, encourage you to trust in God’s mercy, or suggest ways in which you could seek to change your behaviour, with the help of God.
He will suggest a penance of prayer or action by which you can express and acknowledge your need for repentance.
He will then ask you to express your sorrow in an ‘act of contrition’. After your prayer, he will pray for absolution, that your sins be washed away in the blood of Christ, and send you go out to sin no more.
Who can celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
All the Baptised can and need to celebrate the sacrament. It offers healing of our sins, restoration of our relationship with God in Christ, and strengthening with his grace, the indwelling of his Spirit.
Those whose situation is out of keeping with a Christian way of life, in a way that they cannot or are unwilling to change, are thereby unable to use this sacrament of conversion and renewal.
Children are usually brought to the sacrament by their parents and family after suitable preparation in home, parish, and school. There is usually a chance to mark this with a first celebration of Reconciliation in the child’s church community, usually in Lent. The Parish works with families to prepare their child for the Sacrament.
Is it necessary to confess to a priest?
The short answer to that question is ‘Yes’. Why? Because that’s the way God tells us to do it in the Scriptures.
In the letter of St. James chapter 5 verse 16 tells us to “confess our sins to one another.” Notice, it does not say confess your sins straight to God and only to God…it says confess your sins to one another.
Jesus himself tells us that He was given authority on earth to forgive sins (Matthew 9:5). And then proceeds to tell us that this authority was given to “men”… plural. So Jesus isn’t the only one who can forgive sins. In fact in the Gospel according to St. John he tells his Apostles “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” (John 20:21-23). So Jesus was sent with the authority on earth to forgive sins and he sends the Apostles as the Father sent Him. And so the Apostles made no mistake about this Jesus reinforced this message when “He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained'” (John 22-23).
Why would Jesus give the Apostles the power to forgive or to retain sins if He wasn’t expecting folks to confess their sins to them? And how could they forgive or retain sins if no one was confessing their sins to them?
The Bible tells us to confess our sins to one another. It also tells us that God gave men the authority on Earth to forgive sins. Jesus sends out His disciples with the authority on earth to forgive sins. When we confess our sins to a priest, we are simply following the plan laid down by Jesus Christ. He forgives sins through the priest…it is God’s power, but He exercises that power through the ministry of the priest.
It is natural to feel uncomfortable about confessing our sins to another person, but always remember that the priest understands this as he also celebrates the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
How often should I celebrate Reconciliation?
As often as you are conscious of a serious failure or rift in your relationship with God.
Regular confession helps us review the state of that relationship, check dangers to it, and make choices that will help it and us to grow and develop.
Reconciliation Times: Maesteg – Saturday 10.45am-11.15am & Sunday 4.00pm-4:30pm; you could also ask the parish priest if he could hear your confession at another time.