The Sacrament of Reconciliation
- The Church prior to the 1960s often spoke of Hell as being the punishment for sinning. However, even after the Vatican II council, the Church stressed its pastoral teaching on the goodness of Christ—both periods have failed to highlight our treasures in Heaven.
- Who is going to Heaven?
- How do you know?
- Often we’re told that if we do good and are a good person that will qualify us for the reward of Heaven–This is not what the Catholic Church teaches. In fact, this teaching can be found in a heresy refuted by St. Augustine called Pelagianism.
- We cannot get to Heaven by our own good actions.Jesus said, “If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 [c]He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; 19 honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” 20 [d]The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect,[e]go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. 23 [f]Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Amen, I say to you, it will be hard for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
- 25 [r]When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and said, “Who then can be saved?”
- 26 Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”
We are given Salvation as a Free Act of God by Grace. ~Prima Gratia~ After God gives us Grace by our own Free Will we have a choice to cooperate with God or not.
What is Grace ? Can we achieve everlasting happiness without it? No. Again, this is the 5th century heresy known as Pelagianism. One of the fundamentals of this heresy is that Pelagius denied our Fall from God’s Grace and Original Sin.
According to St. Thomas Aquinas there are six different types of Grace, we’ll take a look at four of them:
Sanctifying Grace: Grace given by God to a person to make him Holy and to unite him to God as a participate in His divinity.
Gratuitous Grace: Grace given by God to a person to enable him to lead others toward God.
Cooperating Grace: Stregthens our will and gives us the ability to do good works, which comes from Free Will
Operating Grace: Grace that directly moves us to action.
God gave us Free Will so we must cooperate with Him to see Him in Heaven, subsequently because of our Free Will we can fall into Mortal Sin and cannot merit ourselves a restoration to grace. God must do this for us and he does through Apostolic succession with the Sacrament of Reconciliation:
Christ says to St. Peter, “18 [a]Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
What is Sin? The Catechism says:
V. THE GRAVITY OF SIN: MORTAL AND VENIAL SIN
1854 Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. The distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture,129 became part of the tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience.
1855 Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him.
Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it.
1856 Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us – that is, charity – necessitates a new initiative of God’s mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation:
When the will sets itself upon something that is of its nature incompatible with the charity that orients man toward his ultimate end, then the sin is mortal by its very object . . . whether it contradicts the love of God, such as blasphemy or perjury, or the love of neighbor, such as homicide or adultery. . . . But when the sinner’s will is set upon something that of its nature involves a disorder, but is not opposed to the love of God and neighbor, such as thoughtless chatter or immoderate laughter and the like, such sins are venial.130
1857 For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: “Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.”131
1858 Grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments, corresponding to the answer of Jesus to the rich young man: “Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and your mother.”132 The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.
1859 Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart133 do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.
1860 Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputability of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man. The promptings of feelings and passions can also diminish the voluntary and free character of the offense, as can external pressures or pathological disorders. Sin committed through malice, by deliberate choice of evil, is the gravest.
How do we recognize ourselves as sinners? What if we don’t recognize ourselves as sinners?
Pope Francis says, “ I would advise them to ask for the grace of feeling like one!…even recognizing oneself as a sinner is a grace.”