“Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained” (Jn 20:22-23).
The sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is often referred to as Confession by many Catholics, a term correct insofar as penitents do confess their sins to the priest; however, it fails to incorporate the other parts of the sacrament like penance and reconciliation between God and oneself. As with the sacrament of Anointing, the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is one of healing and of conversion and forgiveness.
Why conversion? The sacrament makes us aware of Christ’s call to conversion, the first step in returning to God the Father from whom one has strayed by sin (see Mark 1:15 and Luke 15:18). It is by faith in the Gospel and by Baptism that one renounces evil and gains salvation, i.e. the forgiveness of all sins and the gift of a new life (seeCatechism of the Catholic Church, 1427).
Why forgiveness? Through the priest’s absolution, which is in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, God grants the penitent ‘pardon and peace.’
Why reconciliation? The sacrament imparts God’s love, the love from one who reconciles: ‘first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift’ (Matthew 5:24).
All those undergoing the First Communion programme partake of First Reconciliation, as do those in the RCIA programme before Baptism and/or Confirmation.
All Catholics should partake of the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation at least once a year. St Thomas’ has scheduled times for the sacrament on Wednesday (10:30am-11:30am) and Saturday (10:30am-11:30am, and 4:30pm-5:30pm); other times available by request. During the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent, additional hours are scheduled.