The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the sacrament that gives us God’s forgiveness for the sins that we have committed. It is sometimes referred to as “Penance” or “Confession.”
Penance and Reconciliation - The Catholic Catechism
We are in need of healing because of the existence of sin in our lives. Every day we make decisions about whether to live in harmony with God and with others. We can destroy this harmony and break our relationships by acts of disobedience, pride, and self-centredness.
Sin is an offence against God. Totally rejecting God and others in our lives is a grave (mortal) sin. When the rejection is not so total or serious, it is a venial sin. Mortal sin is serious sin that destroys the divine power of love in our heart. Mortal sin cuts a person off from God. It breaks our relationship with God; whereas, venial sin only strains our relationship with God. Continually committing venial sins gets us in the habit of saying “no” to God and this habit can quickly lead us to mortal sin.
For a sin to be mortal, ALL THREE of the following conditions must be met:
1. The object (or nature) of the sin must be of grave (or serious) matter.
2. The person must have full knowledge of the sin.
3. The person must deliberately and freely choose to consent to the sin.
Sin is not a laundry list of dos and don'ts. Sin is the attitude and resultant action that separates us from God and each other; it is the epitome of selfishness and a state into which we all regularly fall.
Before a penitent enters the confessional to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, he or she should make a thorough examination of conscience. An examination of conscience is the act of prayerfully thinking about what we have said or done in light of what the Gospel asks of us.
We also must think about how our actions may have hurt our relationship with God or with others whether it was in thought, word, or deed.
There are several tools that we can use to guide our examination of conscience: the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the Seven Deadly Sins, the virtues, and the teachings of the Church.
The following questions, based on the Ten Commandments, are good to reflect upon when making an examination of conscience:
My Relationship with God
What steps am I taking to help myself grow closer to God and to others?
Do I turn to God often during the day, especially when I am tempted?
Do I put an activity, person, or myself above God?
Do I pray every day?
Do I participate at Mass with attention and devotion on Sundays?
Do I attend Mass on Holy Days of Obligation?
Do I use the names of God, Jesus, Mary, and the saints with love and
My Relationships with Others
Have I set a bad example through my words and/or actions?
Do I treat others fairly and with respect?
Do I spread stories or gossip that hurt the reputation of others?
Am I loving to those in my family?
Am I respectful of my neighbours, friends, and those in authority?
Do I show respect for my body and for the bodies of others?
Do I keep away from forms of entertainment that do not respect God’s gift of sexuality?
Have I taken or damaged anything that did not belong to me?
Have I cheated, stole, or lied?
Do I quarrel with others just so I can get my own way?
Do I insult others to try to make them think they are less than I am?
Do I hold grudges and try to hurt people who I think hurt me?