Penitent: Father, forgive me for I have sinned. The last time I went to confession was… days, …weeks, … months, … years. Father, the sins that I want to confess are…
Priest: “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son has reconciled the world to Himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. Through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Go in peace, your sins are forgiven.
Forgiven penitent: Thanks be to God.
The above excerpt is part of the Rite of Reconciliation. It highlights the humility of the penitent and the forgiveness of our heavenly Father. A parishioner has once described to me that, “Father I find that going to reconciliation is excruciatingly painful, but when I finish, it is like heaven.”
The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (No. 297) teaches that “Since the new life of grace received in Baptism does not abolish the weakness of human nature nor the inclination to sin (that is, concupiscence), Christ instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the conversion of the baptised who have been separated from him by sin.”
Today’s Gospel (Luke 15:1-32) is centred entirely on God’s mercy and we are constantly invited to beg for God’s forgiveness. The parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the merciful Father teach us that when we derail off the right path, God comes to look for us, not to condemn us but to save us. If we are contrite, God will lift us up and carry us back to the community, as a shepherd carries a stray sheep back to the flock. There will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous people who have no need of repentance.
Fr. Tien Cao