by Fr W. Nkomo
As we do every year this year we had the commissioning of catechists for the work of passing on the faith on to catechumens in the diocese. Our gratitude goes to the Bishop for commissioning us and the priests who took their time to be with us during this momentous event in our life of faith and the ever devoted catechists who caring out the work of “passing on the way of Christ to others” as the bishop exhorted them during his inspiring homily. Over 200 catechists gathered today at Our Lady of the Assumption Cathedral for the mass of commissioning. Fr Nkomo was asked to present a talk on the importance of the sacrament of reconciliation. This was because the commission for catechism in the diocese have notice the decline in the use of this sacrament. Below is the content of the talk.
THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION
Baptism is a doorway to the other sacraments, i.e. a basis for a life of faith, a sacramental life. Before baptism no one is admitted to the sacramental life of the Church. That is because the sacramental life is a witness to the unity and union between Christ and the Church. Baptism incorporates us into the body of Christ an incorporation that is preceded by a sincere contrition coupled with genuine conversion which through grace effects the forgiveness of sin.
Sin after baptism seems to be understood as a reverse of the great work of God’s grace at baptism because it separates the believer with his savior and the community of believers thus cutting one out of the sacramental life which testifies by its very nature to the union of Christ and the believer. This then necessitates another doorway to the sacramental life of the Church a restoration of the union lost as a result of sin. In other words some sort of second baptism and that is what the sacrament of reconciliation is.
In the creed we profess our belief in the forgiveness of sins “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.” This incorporation through the sacrament of reconciliation requires: a sincere contrition as a disposition to forgiveness, but also the firm will to mend one’s life. Expiation is also involved as well as the confession before the Church represented by its official ministers. Already one should now realize that this sacrament is a complement of baptism. As baptism the sacrament of reconciliation is presupposed for receiving the other sacraments in particular the Eucharist which for many years has been the culminating point of the spiritual life of the church and of the individual faithful.
St Pope John Paul II in Reconciliatio et penitentia no31 summarizes the sacrament thus:
- By the will of the Savior, for a Christian the sacrament of penance is the ordinary way of obtaining forgiveness of serious post – baptismal sins. Consequently it would be presumptuous to disregard this means of grace and salvation. Hence, there should be in each of us a new impulse towards a renewal of our interior attitude towards this sacrament.
- For those having recourse to this sacrament, it is a judicial action, a tribunal of mercy. Over and above this judicial quality and place of spiritual healing, require a knowledge of the sinner’s heart in order for the confessor to be able to judge and absolve, to cure and heal. Consequently a sincere confession belongs to the very nature of the sacrament.
- The parts that make up the sacramental sign of forgiveness and reconciliation.
- Examination of conscience, which should never be an act of anxious psychological introspection, but a sincere and calm comparison with the interior moral law, with the evangelical norms proposed by the Church.
- Contrition, a clear and decisive rejection of sin committed, together with a resolution not to sin again, this imposes a change of life, a drawing near to the holiness of God, a rediscovery of one’s own true identity and liberation in the very depth of self.
- Confession of sins, so that the priest exercising the mercy of Christ may do justice in judging and healing. This moreover is a sign of the meeting of the sinner with the mediation of the Church in the person of the minister; a sign of the person revealing him/herself as a sinner in the sight of God and the Church.
- Absolution, an effective sign of the intervention of the father so that sin is forgiven and blotted out by the mysterious intervention of the saviour.
- Satisfaction (penance) a sign of personal commitment that the Christian has mad to God in the sacrament; a joining of one’s own physical and spiritual mortification to the passion of Jesus.