Penance – recognizing how we can grow in response to God’s love
"The Light Is On For You." Next Wednesday, March 12, the Sacrament of Penance will be available in all of our parishes where there is a resident priest from 6 to 8 p.m. "The Light Is On For You" is our diocesan effort to highlight the importance of the Sacrament of Penance for our growth in the love of God and of each other.
While there will be many more opportunities for the Sacrament of Penance in our churches throughout the season of Lent, we invite you and especially those who have been away from the sacraments for a period of time, to come to experience the lavish mercy of God. Please encourage your friends or family members who have been away from the sacraments to take this opportunity to receive the liberating joy of God's mercy. Encourage them to come home to our Father, to be reconciled through the ministry of the Church, to trust in God's pledge of grace, mercy, and peace. This kindness on your part may be the occasion for their return to the sacraments.
So often Pope Francis reminds us that "the Lord never tires of forgiving" because God is a God of love and mercy. The most important thing about celebrating the Sacrament of Penance is to remember that it is a celebration, a coming home to the embrace of our loving Father. It is God's love and mercy, in the first place, that draws us to want to experience the sacrament.
All forgiveness of sins was made possible through the death and resurrection of Jesus, our Savior. When we were baptized, original sin, and all other sins, if we were adults, were forgiven and we became members of the living Body of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit.
In our weakness and fragility, we sometimes fail to live in response to God's love and in accordance with His plan for us which leads to eternal glory. God does not abandon us in our weakness, but gives us renewed opportunities to experience His healing and forgiveness as we acknowledge and repent of our failure to live in His love and with His grace in our daily lives.
In today's secular society, many reject the whole notion of sin or excuse it away. One of the great paradoxes of the spiritual journey is that the closer we draw to God, the more aware we are of our own sinfulness. As we feel the warmth and light of God's love through our prayer and reflection on the Sacred Scriptures, we recognize all the more clearly our own stubbornness, sinfulness, and hardness of heart.
The Sacrament of Penance gives us the opportunity to lay our soul before the Lord and allow His gentle and consoling grace and forgiveness to touch and heal us. In this sacrament, we come to recognize ways that we can grow in response to God's love and into greater spiritual freedom. We allow the gentle hand of God to guide us in our times of darkness, loss, confusion, and sin.
Through the mercy of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we come to appreciate more deeply that sin is not only about what we have done wrong, but quite often it is about what we have failed to do, how we have lacked generosity to the poor or been apathetic and not taken initiative in reaching out to those who are suffering in body or spirit.
As in all the sacraments, God takes the initiative in inviting us to repent and to receive His merciful love and the forgiveness of our sins through the ministry of the Church. To avail ourselves of this sacrament is to open our hearts to God's good work in us. In acknowledging our weakness, like St. Paul, we come to know that strength which is from God alone.
In our diocese we began "The Light Is On For You" last year to highlight the Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation. Please share this opportunity with others who may not be in church to hear about it. It is an opportune time to experience in the Sacrament of Penance Jesus, who comes to us as reconciler, healer, forgiver of sins, and bestower of that peace which the world cannot give.