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Chapter 18. Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation • 235

Because of human weakness, the new life in Christ, which we receive

in the Sacraments of Initiation, is often threatened by sin. Moreover,

we all face sickness and death. God constantly reaches out to us to

reconcile ourselves to him. Through the gifts of the Church, Jesus, our

divine physician, has given us the Sacraments of Healing—Penance and

Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick—for the forgiveness of sins

and the ministry to the sick and the dying.

Sins committed after Baptism are forgiven in the Sacrament of

Penance and Reconciliation, also called the Sacrament of Forgiveness,

Confession, and Conversion. We will refer to the Sacrament both as

Penance and as Reconciliation, using the terms interchangeably.

Divine mercy and conversion from sin are constant themes in

Scripture. God’s mercy makes possible the repentance of the sinner and

the forgiveness of sin. Time and again in the Old Testament, the sins of

the people are met with God’s outreach of mercy and the invitation to

be healed and return to a covenant relationship. Even when the beloved

King David lied, committed adultery, and caused the death of an inno-

cent man, he was not beyond God’s mercy, to which he had a humble

recourse. Psalm 51 gives us words to express the kind of contrition and

to trust in God’s forgiveness that David felt after committing these sins.


The Gospels provide numerous examples of Christ’s mission to forgive

sins. When a paralytic was lowered through the roof of a house and

placed at his feet, Christ first forgave the man’s sins and then cured his

affliction (cf. Lk 5:17-26). When a sinful woman knelt at his feet in the

house of Simon the Pharisee, Jesus forgave her sins because she had

“loved much,” unlike the Pharisee, who had little insight into his own

sinfulness (cf. Lk 7:36-50). Christ’s parable of the prodigal son illustrates

the sublime meaning of his earthly ministry, which is to forgive sins, rec-

oncile people to God, and lead us to true happiness (cf. Lk 15:11-32).

Jesus died on the Cross and rose from the dead to reconcile sinful

people with God through the forgiveness of sins and the gift of new life

with the Triune God. Even on the Cross, he forgave those who were kill-

ing him and had mercy on the repentant thief.