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Chapter 18. Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation • 243

just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrong-

doing. (1 Jn 1:8-9)

In our churches, we behold Jesus nailed to the Cross, an image that

reminds us of his painful sacrifice to bring about the forgiveness of all

our sins and guilt. If there were no sin, Jesus would not have suffered

for our redemption. Each time we see the crucifix, we can reflect on the

infinite mercy of God, who saves us through the reconciling act of Jesus.

Despite society’s efforts to downplay the reality of sin, there is an

instinctive recognition of its existence. Children generally know, even

when not told, when they have done something morally wrong. Adults

readily admit the evil of terrorism, unjust war, lies, unfair treatment of

people, and similar matters. Society as a whole must also learn to admit

the evil of abortion, physician-assisted suicide, and obtaining stem cells

from embryos, which results in the death of embryonic human life.

Denying evil corrupts us spiritually and psychologically. Rationalizing

our own evil is even more destructive.

Jesus laid the foundation for the Sacrament of Penance during his

ministry and confirmed it after his Resurrection. When Peter asked the

number of times a person should forgive, Jesus told him that there should

be no limit to forgiving. Jesus forgave Peter his triple denial, showed

mercy to the woman taken in adultery, forgave the thief on the cross, and

continually witnessed the mercy of God.

Jesus entrusted the ministry of reconciliation to the Church. The

Sacrament of Penance is God’s gift to us so that any sin committed

after Baptism can be forgiven. In confession we have the opportunity to

repent and recover the grace of friendship with God. It is a holy moment

in which we place ourselves in his presence and honestly acknowledge

our sins, especially mortal sins. With absolution, we are reconciled to

God and the Church. The Sacrament helps us stay close to the truth that

we cannot live without God. “In him we live and move and have our

being” (Acts 17:28). While all the Sacraments bring us an experience of

the mercy that comes from Christ’s dying and rising, it is the Sacrament

of Reconciliation that is the unique Sacrament of mercy.