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The ministry of the Word is a fundamental element of evangelization through all its stages, because it involves the proclamation of Jesus Christ, the eternal Word of God.
“The word of God nourishes both evangelizers and those who are being evangelized so that each one may continue to grow in his or her Christian life”
(National Directory for Catechesis [NDC] [Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2005], no. 17).
Director of New Evangelization
Diocese of Green Bay
"It is this face of Christ that must be rediscovered through the Sacrament of Penance."
Blessed Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2001), no. 37
Prayer Guide:We begin with the Sign of the Cross. In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Prayer Guide: Prepare our hearts and minds, O Lord, to accept your Word. Send your Holy Spirit among us so that we may be a strong people faithful to your Word. Open our hearts so that we can be your eyes, your hands, your feet, and your mouth to a world in need of your love and mercy. We ask this in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Prayer Guide: O Lord, open ourhearts.
All: We shall proclaim your praise.
Prayer Guide: Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit.
All: As it was in the beginning is now, and will be forever. Amen!
Prayer Guide: Lord Jesus, by the light of the Holy Spirit you have taught the hearts of your faithful. We thank you for the gift of your loving embrace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In the same spirit, help us to grow in what is truly right and to always to rejoice in your consolation. We ask this through Christ our Lord, Amen.
Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own? How can you say to your brother, "Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye," when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother's eye. (Lk 6:39-42)
Reading: Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man (Lk 5:17-26)
day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from
every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there, and the
power of the Lord was with him for healing. And some men brought on a stretcher
a man who was paralyzed; they were trying to bring him in and set him in his
presence. But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went
up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles into the
middle in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "As for you,
your sins are forgiven."
Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?" Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply, "What are you thinking in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk?' But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins?" he said to the one who was paralyzed, "I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home."
He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God. Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, "We have seen incredible things today."
The Sacrament of Reconciliation: I am a sinner.
The question posted by a newspaper, "What is wrong with the world?" was answered by Catholic author and writer G.K. Chesterton as follows:
"I am." It is these two simple words that are our starting point for understanding the New Evangelization and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When we hear the term "New Evangelization," we often think about what we have to do in order to get otherpeople to change and to become more Christ-like. However, the New Evangelization begins with each one of us and our call to conversion so that we can be a sign of Christ's love and mercy in the world. Pope Francis was recently asked by a journalist, "Who is Pope Francis?" His response was startling in its simplicity and humility. It is however, the same response that resonates from each of our hearts: "I am a sinner" (www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview).
It is clear that we cannot call others to embrace Christ without embracing Christ ourselves, and we cannot call others to repentance if we ourselves do not repent and confess our own sins. The New Evangelization begins with each one of us. We are called to deepen our personal relationship with Christ so that it is "no longer I, but Christ [who] lives in me" (Gal 2:20).
What is the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
The Sacrament of Reconciliation contains three elements: conversion, confession, and celebration. It is this sacrament that changes us, challenges us, and equips us as disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ to reach out to others and to transform the world. This sacrament brings us into intimate contact with Jesus, where we are liberated from the sins that trouble our hearts and minds and experience God's unconditional forgiveness and mercy so that we can be a living fountain of forgiveness and mercy to others.
Conversion: Acknowledging our weaknesses and failings leads to a conversion of heart, mind, and will. This is the first step in turning away from sin and turning to the Father who loves us and desires each one of us to be in intimate communion with him.
Confession: Penance provides an opportunity to redress those failings and to satisfy those sins and patterns of sin that we habitually fall into. The priest provides spiritual encouragement and also a way for us to redress and satisfy those we may have wronged in the form of a penance. Penance may consist of "prayer, an offering, works of mercy, service of neighbor, voluntary self-denial, sacrifices, and above all the patient acceptance of the cross we must bear" (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC], 2nd ed. [Washington, DC: Libreria Editrice Vaticana–USCCB, 2000], no. 1460).
Celebration: In confession we are given an opportunity to amend for our weaknesses, limitations, and struggles, as before the priest we stand before Christ and take responsibility for our actions and our failings. We acknowledge our shortcomings and also praise God for his gifts of mercy and abundant love in forgiving us. We leave the sacrament with a renewed sense of wholeness and intimacy with God, having experienced a true conversion of heart. This "transforming and renewing action [of God] is the 'driving force' of every reform and is expressed in a real evangelizing effort," according to Pope Benedict XVI (Address to the Apostolic Penitentiary, www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/speeches/2012/march/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20120309_penitenzieria-apostolica_en.html).
Reflection Story: "Spiritual Surgery"
Abby, a 45-year-old nurse, disclosed that during her college years she had stopped going to Mass and to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In her own words, she shares her experience with us.
I grew up Catholic and even went to Catholic school; my family went to Mass every Sunday, but we rarely talked about our faith or prayed together as a family. At college, I was very busy beginning my nursing career and didn't place a high priority on faith or attending Mass. I attended Mass a couple of times during the year, but I didn't go regularly and didn't feel the need to go to confession. To be honest, nobody had really taken the time to explain it to me, and I was afraid to go.
It was during my college years, however, that I found myself pulling more and more away from my faith and engaging in behaviors that hurt others and wounded me. To the outside world, I was a successful person, but inside I felt hopeless. I knew that my life was spiraling out of control, and I needed someone to talk to.
One day in Church I heard about the Curé of Ars, St. John Vianney, and how he had spent about seventeen hours a day in the confessional in France. What could these people be confessing to him?, I thought. Is everyone in need of regular confession? That same night, I woke up with a great sense of urgency. Very clearly, I could see that my need to talk to someone and my desire to go to confession coincided.
The next morning I went to a neighboring parish and asked to see the priest. He met with me and gently helped me to make a confession that changed my life. I was given an "examination of conscience," which helped me to identify patterns of sin and where I was in need of healing. As I left the confessional I could not stop the tears springing to my eyes; I felt freer than I had ever been and deeply grateful for a chance to change.
Today, as a nurse, I often describe confession as "necessary spiritual surgery," but far less invasive! As a nurse I regularly see people in need of surgery who are at their most vulnerable and sensitive. Surgery identifies the problem, removes it, and sets the patient on the road to healing. That is what confession has done for me!
We might approach the sacrament feeling vulnerable and exposed but end up finding a deep peace and sense of wholeness from Christ who is the Divine Physician, a peace that does not come from the world. I cannot imagine the person that I would be without Mass and the sacraments, but particularly confession!
In the silence of your heart or in a small group setting (if you are comfortable), please discuss your thoughts on any of the following questions:
What aspects of Abby's story resonate with me? How do I feel about the Sacrament of Reconciliation? When was the last time that I went to confession?
Is it difficult for me to go to confession? Why?
What name can I give to the restlessness in my heart? What would I let go of right now in order to be truly happy and peaceful?
What pattern of sin can I recognize in my own life?
For information regarding how to make an examination of conscience, see usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments/penance/examinations-of-conscience.cfm.
The Sacrament of Reconciliation:
An Encounter with Christ's Love
Sin has a triple effect. It weakens our relationship with God, it affects our relationships with others, and it denigrates and damages our true sense of who we really are as children of God created in his image and likeness. It is in recognizing that we have wronged God, our neighbor, and ourselves that we are set free from the bindings that keep us from forgiving and fully loving others. When this liberation happens through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are better disposed to proclaim the Gospel with both words and deeds.
(en.radiovaticana.va/news/2013/04/29/pope:_shame_is_a_true_christian_virtue/en1-687330). He loves us, wants to heal us, and is waiting for us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists many ways for the Christian to express interior penance, including the following:
Fasting, prayer and almsgiving;
Efforts at reconciliation with one's neighbor;
The intercession of the saints;
The practice of charity;
Gestures of reconciliation;
Concern for the poor;
The exercise and defense of justice and right;
Examination of conscience;
Celebration of the Sacraments of Penance and Reconciliation and Eucharist, to name just a few.
(CCC, nos. 1434-1439).
Please choose one of the above ways that you can express interior penance, and make an effort to carry out this act for the satisfaction of your sins.
To learn more about the Sacrament of Reconciliation, visit http://usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments/penance/
Prayer Guide: Together we pray the Act of Faith:
O my God,
I firmly believe that You are one God in Three Divine Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I believe that Thy Divine Son became Man, and died for our sins, and that He will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe these and all the truths which the Holy Catholic Church teaches, because you have revealed them,
Who can neither deceive nor be deceived.
Scripture excerpts used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, rev. ed.© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Excerpts from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition, copyright © 2000, Libreria Editrice Vaticana (LEV)–United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Excerpts from Pope Benedict XVI, Address, March 9, 2011, copyright © 2011, LEV; Pope John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, copyright © 2001, LEV. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Excerpts from Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States, second typical edition, Copyright © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; Psalm refrain © 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved. Neither this work nor any part of it may be reproduced, distributed, performed or displayed in any medium, including electronic or digital, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
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