Need for Reconciliation
Our frail human nature suffers many different types of breakdowns; some are physical in nature, but many more are breakdowns in our relationships with God and others. These breakdowns in our relationships, all of which involve a turning away from God, are called sin and require recognition of the fault and some process of restoring the relationship with whoever was wronged. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches that sins are evaluated according to their gravity. Sins may either be mortal or venial, as is evident in Scripture. Mortal sin involves a grave violation of God's law. Venial sin involves a lesser violation that nonetheless offends charity in the heart of man. (CCC, 1854)
What is the Sacrament Called?
We refer here to Reconciliation, but the sacrament has many names. Understanding the various names helps in our understanding of the tremendous benefits that this sacrament brings to those who open their hearts to receive it.
It is called the Sacrament of Conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus' call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin. It is called the Sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner's personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction. It is called the Sacrament of Confession since the disclosure or confession of sins is an essential element of this Sacrament. In a profound sense, it is also a "confession"—acknowledgment and praise—of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man. It is called the Sacrament of Forgiveness, since by the priest's sacramental absolution, God grants the penitent "pardon and peace." It is called the Sacrament of Reconciliation because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles: "Be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:20). He who lives by God's merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord's call: "Go, first be reconciled to your brother." (CCC,1423-24, citing Mt 5:24)
Effects of the Sacrament
The Church reminds us that sins are not only personal but also communal in nature. Thus, this sacrament is at once individual and communal and is celebrated in both forms for the benefit of the person and the community. This rite provides a deeper sense of God’s love and mercy that acknowledges our desire for forgiveness and reconciliation with those whom we have harmed. It is through this action that we renew ourselves and continue our journey of conversion and commitment to living the Gospel message. "The whole power of the sacrament ... consists in restoring us to God's grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1468)