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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Divine Mercy Sunday - Sacrament of Confession

Divine Mercy Sunday
First Sunday After Easter

Sacrament of Confession
Plenary Indulgence
The Connection  
Why confess to a priest?

During the second week of Lent I explored the Sacrament of Confession and how to examine your conscience in Why Confession?.  As we approach Divine Mercy Sunday I want to take another look at Confession and attempt to address the question, Why confess to a priest?

On the night of the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the apostles who were hiding out of fear of the Jews, in the upper room behind shut doors. Jesus appeared standing among them and showed them his wounds. Then Jesus said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” (John 20:21)

How did the Father send Jesus? In Matthew 9:1-8 we read that Jesus forgave the sins of a paralyzed man. The scribes knowing that God alone could forgive sins accused Jesus of blasphemy. Jesus told them that he had forgiven the sins of this man in order for all to “know that the Son of man* has authority on earth to forgive sins.” (Matthew 9:6) Saint John finishes this passage in verse 8 by expressing, “When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.”
So “as the Father has sent” Jesus with the     authority to forgive sins, on the evening of the resurrection, Jesus gave a share of this power to forgive sins (“even so I send you”) to his apostles. Jesus “breathed on them” and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:22-23)

With this action on the evening of his resurrection, Jesus “instituted the Sacrament of Penance when, after being risen from the dead, he breathed upon his disciples and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ The consensus of all the Fathers [of the Church] has always acknowledged that by this action so sublime and words so clear the power of forgiving and retaining sins was given to the Apostles and their lawful successors for reconciling the faithful who have fallen after Baptism.” (Council of Trent, De Paenitentia, Chapter 1)

The same Spirit that made an orderly universe out of primordial chaos in Genesis Chapter 1 and 2; the same Spirit that overshadowed the Virgin Mary so that she would conceive the Son of God in Luke 1:35; is the same Spirit that is breathed upon the apostles and passed on to their successors, our priests and bishops, in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Confession to a priest is not a man made rule, it is a God Breathed Spiritual act of Mercy instituted by Jesus.

How could the apostles or their successors our priests retain or forgive sins they had not heard? They couldn’t. This meant that we have to humble ourselves and confess or tell our sins to someone who has the authority to forgive.

In Confession we meet that person who has been given that authority to forgive, he has been anointed with the Spirit of Mercy to stand in the place of Christ (in Persona Christi). This priest, himself is a sinner and in need of forgiveness and mercy, but at the moment of this Sacrament it is Christ Himself who speaks those precious words of absolution through the mouth of the priest, "I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

The first Sunday after Easter, our Lord Jesus, through St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, established Divine Mercy Sunday. This day falls on the Octave Day of Easter, a day that celebrates the merciful love of God shining through the whole Easter season. This day has been set aside to tell the world about God’s Divine Mercy.

On April 30, 2000, Pope John Paul II acting on the words of Jesus to St. Maria Faustina Kowalska declared the second Sunday of Easter Divine Mercy Sunday. And on August 3, 2002 by Apostolic Penitentiary a plenary indulgence was granted for devotions in honor of Divine Mercy Sunday.

For items related to St Faustina or
Divine Mercy Sunday
please visit Lynn's Timeless Treasures.

Doubting Thomas - Caravaggio
* Son of man (Semitic idiom used to denote humanity)

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