Go and Sin No More: Set Free by Penance, the Sacrament of Freedom
I want to share my own story of rediscovering the Sacrament of Freedom with my readers
When a Catholic comes from Confession, he does truly, by definition, step out again into that dawn of his own beginning and look with new eyes across the world to a Crystal Palace that is really of crystal. He believes that in that dim corner, and in that brief ritual, God has really remade him in His own image.He is now a new experiment of the Creator. He is as much a new experiment as he was when he was really only five years old. He stands, as I said, in the white light at the worthy beginning of the life of a man. The accumulations of time can no longer terrify. He may be grey and gouty; but he is only five minutes old. (GK Chesterton)
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that "Through the sacraments of Christian initiation, man receives the new life of Christ. Now we carry this life "in earthen vessels," and it remains "hidden with Christ in God." We are still in our "earthly tent," subject to suffering, illness, and death. This new life as a child of God can be weakened and even lost by sin".
"The Lord Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies, who forgave the sins of the paralytic and restored him to bodily health, has willed that his Church continue, in the power of the Holy Spirit, his work of healing and salvation, even among her own members. This is the purpose of the two sacraments of healing: the sacrament of Penance and the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick." (CCC #1420, 1421)
The sections which follow provide instruction on the origins, purpose, efficacy and gift of this Sacrament, replete with references to the Bible, the Tradition of the Church and pastoral insights. Penance is a Sacrament of healing because it sets us free from the wounds of sin and makes us new, fresh. It is the continual invitation to begin again. .
In the last chapter of his Autobiography, entitled "The Man with a Golden Key", GK Chesterton wrote:"When people ask me, or indeed anybody else, "Why did you join the Church of Rome?" the first essential answer, if it is partly an elliptical answer, is, "To get rid of my sins."
He continues, "For there is no other religious system that does really profess to get rid of people's sins. It is confirmed by the logic - which to many seems startling - by which the Church deduces that sin confessed and adequately repented is actually abolished; and that the sinner does really begin again as if he had never sinned."
"When a Catholic comes from Confession, he does truly, by definition, step out again into that dawn of his own beginning and look with new eyes across the world to a Crystal Palace that is really of crystal. He believes that in that dim corner, and in that brief ritual, God has really remade him in His own image."
"He is now a new experiment of the Creator. He is as much a new experiment as he was when he was really only five years old. He stands, as I said, in the white light at the worthy beginning of the life of a man. The accumulations of time can no longer terrify. He may be grey and gouty; but he is only five minutes old."
How well I understand the insight expressed by this giant of our history. Chesterton was a convert to the Catholic Church. I am a revert, a term now often used to refer to people who returned, often on a circuitous route, to the Church into which we were Baptized.
For me, this Sacrament of freedom was instrumental in my return to the Church as a young man. As we approach the beginning of the 40 Days of penitence and conversion called Lent, I want to share my own story of rediscovering the Sacrament of Freedom with my readers.
I still remember the day as if it were yesterday. The sun drenched retreat grounds stretched out before my young eyes. I was eighteen years old, a new "revert" to the Catholic faith and living in Florida. I had registered to attend a spiritual retreat featuring a Benedictine Monk speaking on how to develop an intimate relationship with the Lord through prayer. I was ready.
Though I never "officially" left the Catholic Church, I had certainly lost my commitment to the faith and the Church into which I had been baptized. My return to a personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ- and my knowing, mature decision to embrace the full teaching of the Catholic Church is a type of conversion story. It is also a journey being played out in the lives of thousands in our day. It was my own experience of a New Evangelization because it was an encounter with the One who makes us new creations. (2 Cor. 5:17)
The ancient but ever new Catholic Church is coming alive with the sons and daughters who are either rediscovering her beauty and depth or discovering both for the first time. Her sons and daughters coming home are founding new movements, ecclesial communities, ministries and works. Everything old is new again! An experience of a return home, a personal conversion to the Church often characterizes the journey home of so many Catholic Christians. I am one.
I had wandered far from the faith of my childhood during my adolescence and my teenage years. I was caught up, as were so many of my generation, in a passionate search for truth and meaning. Through what many would have seen as a misspent youth I was actually reaching out to answer the existential questions that were burning in my soul. I was sincere in my search for truth and the Lord knew it. The search eventually led me back to the One whom Himself claimed to be the Truth.
At the encouragement of a Jewish friend, who had become a Christian while ...
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