WHAT TO DO WHEN WE HAVE FALLEN INTO SIN AND WHY WE SHOULD DO IT – PENANCE

John was in the desert, baptizing and preaching a baptism of repentance, as a remission of sins. And there went out to him all the region of Judea and all those of Jerusalem, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. (Mark 1:4-5)

Therefore, he said to them again: “Peace to you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them. And he said to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Those whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and those whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” (John 20.21-23)

POINT 13: THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION IS INSTITUTED BY GOD TO FREE US FROM SIN AND THE BIBLE RECORDS THIS MANY PLACES

As is recorded in Leviticus 19.21-22: “But, for his offence, he shall offer a ram to the Lord at the door of the tabernacle of the testimony. And the priest shall pray for him, and for his sin, before the Lord, and he shall win his favour again for him, and the sin shall be forgiven.” We see that the office and role of a priest is one ordained by God and this continues and takes a new dimension during the time of Christ Mark 1:4-5: “John was in the desert, baptizing and preaching a baptism of repentance, as a remission of sins. And there went out to him all the region of Judea and all those of Jerusalem, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”

John 3,22-36 then records that Our Lord Jesus Christ along with his disciple took on this new dimension of mediation for sinners and God: “After these things, Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea. And he was living there with them and baptizing. Now John was also baptizing, at Aenon near Salim, because there was much water in that place. And they were arriving and being baptized.”

In Mark 2.1-13 Our Lord Jesus made known that the office of mediation of forgiveness of sin is one that “the son of man” which refers to the Divine destiny of humanity: “Then, when Jesus had seen their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” But some of the scribes were sitting in that place and thinking in their hearts: “Why is this man speaking in this way? He is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” At once, Jesus, realizing in his spirit that they were thinking this within themselves, said to them: “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up, take up your stretcher, and walk?’ But so that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” he said to the paralytic: “I say to you: Rise up, take up your stretcher, and go into your house.” And immediately he got up, and lifting up his stretcher, he went away in the sight of them all, so that they all wondered. And they honoured God, by saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” And he departed again to the sea. And the entire crowd came to him, and he taught them.”

And in John 20.21-23 we see our Lord then confers this office of the mediation of forgiveness of sin upon the apostles: “Therefore, he said to them again: “Peace to you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them. And he said to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Those whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them, and those whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.

Acts 19.17-20 records that the office continued to be functional: “And so, this became known to all the Jews and Gentiles who were living at Ephesus. And a fear fell over them all. And the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many believers were arriving, confessing, and announcing their deeds. Then many of those who had followed odd sects brought together their books, and they burned them in the sight of all. And after determining the value of these, they found the price to be fifty thousand denarii. In this way, the Word of God was increasing strongly and was being confirmed.”

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POINT 14: THERE ARE DEEP MYSTERIES OF THE SACRAMENT OF RECONCILIATION THAT ARE SUPPOSED TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE

 We must understand that this sacrament of Penance is made up of three parts: 1) repentance, 2) satisfaction and 3) mortification.

  1. Repentance: which is conviction on willing and actually directing the soul toward perfect contrition, and this perfect contrition is perfect love toward God and perfect love toward God in all human beings. This is when a soul is truly sorry of offending God and causing the evil to people simply because he or she loves God and sees other people as infinite treasures of God who are to be valued with true love. True repentance always has a complete desire to achieve absolute perfection in all the virtues not just one, and that repentance which should be the state of the soul of all penitents must give birth to the two other parts of penance: satisfaction and mortification. Anything short of this and the soul will not make any real headway in the life which is pleasing to God because penance echoes repentance forward into satisfaction and mortification which echoes back a stronger better and more pure repentance and this goes on as the soul grows in true sanctification and heads towards perfection. The grace the priest wishes to give and grow in the confessional is this grace that truly repairs the soul into perfect love and friendship of God and all that concerns him.

True repentance of the soul can be reached through perfect interaction, harmony and exercise of the virtues; humility, faith, hope and charity. True humility, faith, hope and charity in perfect contrition are exercised by

  1. a detestation of every sin and refraining from all that leads to sin and
  2. perfect love towards God in prayer, spiritual study, mental prayer, visit and special time with God, complete sincere surrender, devotion and commitment to the truth he revealed
  3. perfect love towards God in every human being around you by taking opportunities to preach, teach and living the gospel lifestyle, by showing mercy in words (exultation, admonition, compliment, teaching and building the faith), actions, dressing and prayer.
  4. By spiritual and corporal works of mercy
  • Satisfaction: Is the replacement, reparation or restoration of what was stolen, damaged or destroyed through the act of ones sin. Satisfaction has two parts: 1) satisfaction for temporal damages and 2) satisfaction for spiritual damages. If penance is given for souls to reach and exercise reparation then the soul should be given the room to exercise these to the following degrees:

(a) satisfaction for its sin’s damages both spiritual (through preaching, teaching, praying, and living against those sins) and temporal damages (restoration of all stolen and fraudulently gotten goods and services, replacement of damaged goods, telling the truth to everyone about who you lied against to destroy their name, etc)

In satisfaction sometimes the humiliation, the fear, the shock, the shame and the disgrace of being mocked as a hypocrite if we fail or are remembered as people who fell, is the motivation we need to leave the life of slavery to sin. Therefore our satisfaction should begin with preaching against our sins.

A soul that is truly repentant or repaired (achieved perfect contrition) is driven to make satisfaction for damages it has caused both spiritually and physically and is also driven to mortify its flesh. Therefore penitents should be given the room to reach and exercise a repaired soul through the demand of satisfaction and mortification for its perfection.

  • Mortification: Drafted from Wikipedia:

The Catholic Church has held mortification of the flesh (literally, “putting the flesh to death”), as a worthy spiritual discipline. The practise is rooted in the Bible: in the asceticism of the Old and New Testament saints, and in its theology, such as the remark by Saint Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, where he states: “If you live a life of nature, you are marked out for death; if you mortify the ways of nature through the power of the Spirit, you will have life.” (Romans 8:13, DRC). It is intimately connected with Christ’s complete sacrifice of himself on the Cross: “those who belong to Christ have crucified nature, with all its passions, all its impulses” (Gal 5:24, DRC). Christ himself enjoined his disciples to mortify themselves when he said: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matt 16:24, DRC). According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “[t]he way of perfection passes by way of the Cross. There is no holiness without renunciation and spiritual battle. Spiritual progress entails the ascesis and mortification that gradually lead to living in the peace and joy of the Beatitudes: ‘He who climbs never stops going from beginning to beginning, through beginnings that have no end. He never stops desiring what he already knows.’”. The purpose of mortification is to train “the soul to virtuous and holy living” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, article on Mortification). It achieves this through conforming one’s passions to reason and faith. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, internal mortification, such as the struggle against pride and self-love, is essential, but external mortification, such as fasting can also be good if they conform with a spirit of internal mortification (Wikipedia.com, 2019) [1].

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The flesh is mortified primarily so that it does not get carried away by its limitations in forgetfulness, natural love of convenience and love for sensual pleasure which would then lead the soul into temptations, lukewarmness and self-centred love, disordered attachment to convenience and love of self over the love of God which makes the soul totally vulnerable to falling into mortal sins and damaging the soul and body even more. An example of damage to the body includes damaged dopamine sensors in the brain due to habitual sins against chastity, and other physiological faults developed from addictions. While damage to the soul is the twist sunken deep in the soul that makes it love its selfish desires over the love of God.

There are two kinds of reasons for mortification: 1) the individual purpose and 2) the mystical purpose.

The Individual purpose includes to:

  1. master the body
  2. gain holy detachment from all things
  3. pray for personal spiritual things

While the Mystical purpose includes to:

  1. make reparation for your sins which has always been a destruction of God’s extrinsic glory which is for everyone not you. Also the effect of the lack of goodness you’ve now caused affecting other people not just the individual who sins.
  2. make reparation for the sins of others and the whole world
  3. work for the purification [indulgence] for the holy souls in purgatory
  4. pray for the temporal and spiritual goods of others including and especially casting out devils

 Some examples of mortification include:

1 Sleeping on the floor with no sleeping material for comfort or wearing a hair-shirt as an undergarment.

2 Fasting from food completely or Fasting from certain types of enjoyable food (eg. bakeries, ice cream, meat etc.) for periods of a day to months or years.

3 Fasting from the internet, social media, games, or other entertainment for a period of hours to days or to months

4 Vigils, staying up during the time of sleep to pray, read scriptures, hear sermons or other spiritually edifying activities.

5 Fasting from television shows, movies, series and such entertainment for a period of hours to days or to months

Other activities that bring discomfort and a state of inconveniences which are bearable to the health.

Penance is to be given so that a soul can reach and exercise reparation since the body/flesh is an attribute of the soul not a part of the soul, it must be purified. If any parts of these are missing from anyone who is able and capable of exercising them all then it is a sign that the soul is not truly repaired or repentant. If a soul does attain these then it is on its way to pleasing God as a saint.

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These are summed up in this full act of contrition:

O my God, I have decided and I am very sorry that I have sinned against you because you are goodness itself, you are completely love and mercy and I know that these sins of mine are damaging my soul and the souls of others around me and this causes you sorrow. I am deeply sorry for this my God, please purify me by the merits of your sacrifice. By the help of your grace, I promise I will do penance to make reparation for the damages my sins have caused my souls and other souls, I will work to restore all I have damaged, destroyed or stolen physically and also spiritually by preaching against the sins I committed to all souls especially those I scandalized, by teaching about you and by prayers of reparation. I promise I will amend my life by dwelling in your beauty through studying of you, meditation, prayer and mortifying myself to live a pure and charitable life, I will avoid the things, persons and places that cause me to sin, I will call on you and your heavens, giving room to you and them when I am tempted and I will not sin again. Jesus, you suffered and died for me, help me never to be ungrateful to you my God. Hold me my Lord, I give myself to thee, I know that you love me.

Sacrilege against the sacrament of penance

 Intentionally telling a lie during confession or withholding any sin that has been identified by the conscience and finally not sincerely intending to do penance or make satisfaction for one’s wrongdoing or not being sincere about wanting to never repeat that sin. This intention to never repeat the sin must be an honest and truly sincere desire to do all they can righteously do, so as to not fall into that sin again because without it, the person will be lying to the Holy Spirit when they make the act of contrition and without that sincere intention to stop sinning it means the person is not sorry for the sin and therefore cannot validly obtain absolution.

Let us heed the advice of the saints concerning our repentance and the beauty of this sacrament:

“Do not be ashamed to enter again into the Church. Be ashamed when you sin. Do not be ashamed when you repent. Pay attention to what the devil did to you. These are two things: sin and repentance. Sin is a wound; repentance is a medicine. Just as there are for the body wounds and medicines, so for the soul are sins and repentance. However, sin has the shame and repentance possesses the courage.”

– St. John Chrysostom [2]

Hide nothing from your confessor… a sick man can be cured only by revealing his wounds.

-Saint Margaret of Cortona [3]

The Lord is more anxious to forgive our sins than a woman is to carry her baby out of a burning building.

-Saint John Vianney [4]

“What does it cost us to say: “My God help me! Have mercy on me!” Is there anything easier than this? And this little will suffice to save us if we be diligent in doing it .”

-St. Alphonsus Liguori [5]

So many people see the confessional as a place of defeat, but confession is a place of victory every single time.” “It’s a place where I acknowledge sin has beaten me, but that I’m letting Jesus win.

Father Mike Schmitz [6].

The Lord never tires of forgiving. It is we who tire of asking for forgiveness.

Pope Francis [7]

References

  1. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mortification_in_Roman_Catholic_teaching
  2. The Fathers of the Church:St John Chrysostom on repentance and alms giving, pp115
  3. Day 20 of A forty day spiritual workout for catholics by bob rice 2013, or Why do I need to confess my sins to a Priest Fr Mark Murphy 2014; https://Augustinecollective.org/why-do-I-need/
  4. St John Vianney’s relic reminds us true holness is possible for all by Kathryn Jean Lopez 14 February, 2019; https://Angelusnews.com/voices/Kathryn-jean-lopez/st-john-vianneys-relics-reminds-us-true-holiness-is-possible-for-all
  5. The voices of the Saints: Counsels from the Saints to bring comfort and guidiance in daily living by Francis W Johnston, TAN Books 2013
  6. http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/the-confessional-is-a-place-of-victory
  7. Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel
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