“Through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace…”
Each time the sacrament of reconciliation and penance is celebrated, the priest begins the formula of absolution with these words.
They express the profound reality that is taking place. First, there is the recognition that the church mediates God’s loving activity of forgiveness of sins. Jesus intentionally created the church to extend his victory over sin. Second, this sacrament, like all the others, begins with God’s initiative. Long before we recognize our need for God’s mercy, he is already calling us to him, extending his offer of grace.
That, of course, is what the sacrament of reconciliation and penance is all about: God’s love which overcomes even our sins. There is nothing that we can do in life that will cause God not to love us.
As Pope Francis has said so well, it is not God who tires of forgiving us; rather, it is we ourselves who tire of asking for forgiveness! But we never should give up on our desire for holiness. God will forgive us if we approach the sacrament with sincere contrition. There is no need to be afraid!
In this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis has called on the church to throw open the doors of mercy, to show the vultus misericordiae — the face of mercy — to all those who need it.
Whether one receives this sacrament regularly (a commendable practice) or has not been to confession for many years, let this Year of Mercy be a time in which we take advantage of this generous offer of “pardon and peace.”
Eric Banecker is a seminarian at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.