Posted by: dowsmallgroups | 26/03/2013

A deeply personal sacrament

We are Christians only if we encounter Christ… Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we really become Christians… (Pope Benedict XVI, 3 September 2008).

Given that many of us were baptised as infants, our first lived encounter with Christ may not compare to that which captured St. Paul’s attention on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-19). Yet, at our own baptism we were each called by name and invited to become a child of God. Each of us were anointed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and united with Christ in his mystical body. Through his earthly body, the Church, we were joined with our fellow human beings to love as Christ so loved.

We are reminded of this great gift of baptism – the gift of new life in Christ when we pray the ‘Our Father’ and join in the sacramental life of the church.  Most notably, in the celebration of Holy Eucharist, we encounter Christ in the readings of Holy Scripture, the gathered assembly, the priest in persona Christi and in the bread and wine which become for us the body and blood of Christ.

Our relationship with God is called to be a deep and personal one. Christ invited us to call God ‘Father’, an intimate and familial bond. As with any personal relationship, however, differences can and do arise and, try as we might, we often turn away, though action or inaction, from our ever-loving Father. While God remains faithful in love for each one of us, our decision to turn back to God – to be reconciled – may happen straight away of may take place years later.  The late Blessed John Paul II speaks of this ‘inmost change of heart’ as a ‘personal conversion’ that begins with a deeply personal matter, the acknowledgement of ‘one’s own sin.’ (Reconciliation and Penance, 4, 13) It can be extremely difficult to admit personal responsibility for the wrongs in our life. The Catechism of the Catholic Church usefully explains repentance as an ‘ endeavour of conversion [which] is not just a human work but the movement of a “contrite heart” drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.’ (CCC, 1428)

In face of this intensely private desire to rest again in the loving embrace of our Lord, the Church offers us the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  While visible items – water, bread and wine accompanied by the spoken word make Christ present in the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion, respectively, in the sacrament of reconciliation, the priest serves in “persona Christi” – in the person of Christ. It is Christ who heals in this sacrament, it is he who reconciles us and restores our personal relationship with the Lord.  While our spoken words – the verbal acknowledgement of our sins help us to commit to resolve not to sin again, the priest’s healing words of absolution are the sacramental sign of resurrection, enabling us to begin again our baptismal gift of new life in Christ.

Just as we are baptised individually with water poured over our heads and we each partake of Christ’s body and blood through the celebration of Holy Eucharist, the Church recommends individual confession to heal and effect the reconciliation with God that takes place within our inner most beings. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the gift of a loving God and, as Pope Francis reminds us, ‘The Lord never tires of forgiving, it is we who tire of asking for forgiveness’ (Angelus, 17 March 2013).

To use this as a small group session, you can download a fully edited version by clicking on the link here: A Deeply Personal Sacrament

This blog entry was contributed by Margaret Wickware



  1. What you have written here helps me – thank you

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