Saturday, March 3, 2007

Penance and Reconciliation: The Tender Mercy of Our God

Tender mercy isn't the phrase that most people think of when they think of confessing sins, even if it does wind up with reconciliation with God. They are more worried about having to tell their sins to the priest.

Rarely have I read a more beautiful piece on penance and reconciliation than this Lenten pastoral letter by San Antonio Archbishop Gomez. It is comprehensive and yet has such a tender tone. I especially liked seeing his instructions to the priests that came at the end ... which should set anyone's fears at rest when coming to confession. This letter is in a pdf in your choice of Spanish or English here. Here is a sample but do go read it all.
14. I realize that such language about sin and judgment is rarely heard anymore. Under the influence of our highly secularized society, we have lost that lively awareness of what the Church’s tradition calls the “four last things”: death, judgment, hell, and heaven.14

But we are called to a mature faith, my brothers and sisters. We want to stand confidently before our Lord, with full assurance that we know his will for our lives (1 Cor. 14:20; Eph. 4:13; Col. 4:12). We must not let ourselves be confused or led astray by a culture that would have us avoid truths of the Gospel we might find challenging or uncomfortable.

15. It is true that our merciful Father has created each of us out of love and that he desires to make us holy and to live in communion and friendship with us, beginning in this world and continuing for all eternity in the world to come. This is the beautiful hope of our faith.

But our Lord made clear that evil and sin could thwart our path to heaven. He described sin as a kind of voluntary slavery (John 8:34) and warned that it could ruin us if we do not open ourselves to his Gospel (Luke 13:3, 5). He taught that we could freely choose to say “no” to God and to exclude ourselves from communion with him—even for all eternity.15 At the end of our lives, we will be judged by our love for God and for our neighbor.16

16. However, let us not reduce the Gospel to something negative. Jesus did not come only to warn us about the wages of sin. He came not to condemn the world but to save it (John 3:16–17). He wants every one to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). That is why he left us this powerful sacrament by which we are reconciled to God—so that none of us would be lost, so that all of us would come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).
Much thanks to David for putting me onto this letter.

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