“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week,” Jesus showed himself to his apostles. “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” (Jn 20:19, 22-23)
The forgiveness of sins committed after Baptism is conferred by a particular sacrament called the sacrament of conversion, confession, penance, or reconciliation. (CCC 1486)
The sinner wounds God’s honor and love, his own human dignity as a man called to be a son of God, and the spiritual well-being of the Church, of which each Christian ought to be a living stone. (CCC 1487)
The spiritual effects of the sacrament of Penance are:
THE SACRAMENT OF PENANCE
Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. CCC, 1440
PRAYER BEFORE CONFESSION
Almighty and merciful God, you have brought me here in the name of your Son to receive your mercy and grace in my time of need. Open my eyes to see the evil I have done. Touch my heart and convert me to yourself. Where sin has separated me from you, may your love unite me to you again. Where sin has brought weakness, may your power heal and strengthen; where sin has brought death, may your Spirit raise to new life. Give me a new heart to love you, so that my life may reflect the image of your Son. May the world see the glory of Christ revealed in your Church, ana come to know that he is the one whom you have sent, Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.
THE EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
The following examination of conscience” is to help us to compare our lives with the example and commandments of Christ.
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with your mind, and with all your strength."
When making important decisions about my way of life, have I put God first?
Am I so caught up with getting on in this world that I give no thought to the things of God?
Have I risked losing my faith through pride or cowardice?
Have I really trusted God, especially in times of difficulty?
Have I prayed in the morning and evening and in times of temptation?
Do I really love God’s name?
Have I been guilty of foul language, of contempt for God’s name or sacred things?
Is Sunday (or a holy day) a day on which I try to give time and attention to the things of God and of my religion - particularly by taking a full and prayerful part in the Mass and receiving Communion with devotion?
Is my heart set on money, on my own amusement at any cost?
Now consider the second great commandment:
"You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Do I use other people for my own ends and advantage?
In my family life, do I really try to fulfil my responsibilities, as father or mother, husband or wife, son or daughter?
Do I make my home a happy and loving place by being tolerant and forgiving?
Have I tried to ensure a Christian upbringing for my children?
Do I scandalize them in what I say or do in their presence?
Do I make it harder for them to grow up responsibly?
Do I put temptation in their path, particularly by irresponsibly letting them go their own way?
Have I been faithful to my husband (wife)?
Do I spend the proper amount of my wages or any other monies I have on the family, or do I spend it on other things?
Do I gamble it away or spend it on luxuries for my own personal amusement to the harm of the home?
Do I take a fair share of responsibility for older members of my family now grown old or infirm?
Do I spend time and money on the less fortunate?
Have I forgotten to help victims of oppression or poverty?
Do I despise others, particularly those of other race or religions?
Do I do my fair share in working for the good of my parish and contributing in some measure to the good of the whole Church?
Do I selfishly stand aloof and neglect all appeals for help?
Do I avoid getting involved with the people of my own area, at home or at work?
Do I do nothing about obvious injustice suffered by others?
Have I paid my taxes?
In my work am I just, hardworking, honest?
Do I cheat or break agreements or contracts?
Do I break the laws enacted by legitimate authority?
Do I drive dangerously?
Have I driven when under the influence of alcohol?
Do I refuse to pay my bills?
Have I been truthful and fair?
Have I deliberately deceived others?
Judged them rashly?
Injured their reputation by lies about them?
Have I revealed secrets?
Have I been guilty of physical violence?
Caused physical damage?
Maliciously ill-treated others?
Do I hate people?
Do I insult others, quarrel with them, lose my temper with them?
Have I been responsible for advising or procuring an abortion?
Have I stolen anything? Have I forgiven every injury?
And now let us remember what it means to be a true disciple of our Lord.
,,If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Do I deny myself?
Do I eat or drink more than is reasonable?
Am I envious, proud or arrogant?
Am I lazy?
Do I accept suffering and disappointment as a share in the Passion of Christ?
Have I fasted and abstained when this has been asked of me by the Church?
Have I been chaste and pure?
Or have I toyed with temptations to impurity, by deliberately looking for what is impure?
Have I dishonoured my body by fornication, impurity, foul conversation, lusting thoughts, unchaste actions?
Have I given in to sensuality, particularly in my reading or my entertainments?
Is my married life according to God’s will and law?
Have I used methods of birth control contrary to the Church’s teaching on the place of sex in marriage?
Contrition - is ,,sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again” (Council of Trent). When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called ,,perfect” (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible (cf. Council of Trent).
The contrition called ,,imperfect” (or ,,attrition”) is also a gift of God, a prompting of the Holy Spirit. It is born of the consideration of sin’s ugliness or the fear of eternal damnation and the other penalties threatening the sinner (contrition of fear). Such a stirring of conscience can initiate an interior process which, under the prompting of grace, will be brought to completion by sacramental absolution. By itself however, imperfect contrition cannot obtain the forgiveness of grave sins, but it disposes one to obtain forgiveness in the sacrament of Penance (Cf. Council of Trent).
The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic Letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings (Cf. Mt 5-7; Rom 12-15; 1 Cor 12-13; Gal 5; Eph 4-6; etc.). CCC, 1451-1454
After leaving the place of confession you have the opportunity to reflect on what has taken place and to thank God for his mercy and forgiveness in the quiet of the church. You are once again part of the mystery of salvation. Here is a prayer of thanksgiving:
Father, In your love you have brought me From evil to good and from misery to happiness. Through your blessings Give me the courage of perseverance. Amen.