Christ Jesus some two thousand years ago came into this world to bringredemption for our sins.
He did this through his death and resurrection, or whatwe refer to as the pascal mystery. We still encounter the saving presence of theLord in the sacraments and in the Word. In each and every sacrament we come faceto face with “the grace of God our Savior” (Titus 2:11). It is this redemptionof sins aspect of the sacraments that I will be examine.
In the past couple ofcentury we have focused are attention primarily on the Sacrament of Penance asthe means to obtain Forgiveness Essay of sins after Baptism. We have come to focus onit so much that it has come to be, for most Catholics, understood as the onlysacrament though which forgiveness of sins is obtained. This belief as we willsee is an incorrect understanding because we encounter the saving presence ofthe Lord in other sacraments and ways not only in the Sacrament of Penance. However the Sacrament of Penance is always to be understood as the primarysacrament for forgiveness of mortal sins after Baptism. To better understand how this can be let us first look at the generalbackground of the development of the Sacrament of Penance.Order now
The Sacrament ofPenance has it’s roots even as far back as the day of resurrection when Christbreathed out the spirit on the disciples and said to them, ‘Receive the HolySpirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’ssins, they are retained. ‘ (John 20:22-23). In Paul’s second letter to theCorinthians we see Paul developing this teaching of Christ, when he says ‘Allthis is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us theministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world tohimself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us themessage of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making hisappeal through us.
We beseech you. . . be reconciled to God. For our sake he madehim to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousnessof God( 2 Cor. 5:18-21).
These two passages would seem to be part of thesacrament’s biblical foundation. The sacrament itself would seem to have comeabout as a result of the early Church’s struggle to recognize that Baptism mayforgive sin but it didn’t end the struggle against sin. People fell into sineven after Baptism, so in order to bring these fallen members back into theChristian community the Sacrament of Penance was established. In the second and up to the sixth century A. D. a Christian could onlyreceive the Sacrament of Penance once after Baptism.
The penitent would have tofirst confess before his or her bishop. The penitent would then be required toparticipate in the “order of penitents” of the early Church. This required thepenitent to wear special clothes, and the penitent would have to go to a specialplace with other penitents when worshipping with the community. The communitywould pray for those in the “order of penitents” during the worship serves, andthe bishop would lay his hands on the penitents.
But this laying on of hands didnot take on the character of absolution until it was done during the worshipserves on Thursday of Holy Week. The penitents were not allowed to receiveEucharist because the penitents were excommunicated, excluded from Communion. After a period of probation, prescribed by the bishop, the penitent would beabsolved of the sins the individual committed. The bishop would do this bylaying his hands on the penitent. The typical time for this reconciliation totake place was on Thursday of Holy Week before the Baptisms took place. Thereason it was done at this time was because the early Church believed that bothBaptism and Penance were both sacraments that brought about forgiveness of sinsand that they should be prepared for at the same time.
It was just this type ofthinking that also led the early Church to the belief that the sacrament couldonly be received once. This time of preparation, for the Sacrament ofReconciliation, has come to be what we refer to now as the liturgical season ofLent. This belief that the sacrament could only be received once and due to thestrict penance received for sins it became customary among .