Today we have our Advent Penance Service that includes First Penance for some of our children. Below I share my homily with you to encourage you to think about what the Sacrament of Reconciliation means. You will find a link to further resources at the end.
Psalm 51 (sung)
December 10, 2016
Today we are here to celebrate our Advent Penance Service. We are blessed to have a total of four priests here so that everyone can have an opportunity for individual confessions after our service.
I say blessed because I very much believe that, whatever name you call it, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a gift.
We call it “confession” because confessing our sins is an important part of the Sacrament. We need to start by confessing our sins to let God forgive us.
We call it “penance” because we accept a penance to do as a sign that we are contrite, meaning we are sorry for our sins.
We call it “reconciliation” because our venial sins have hurt our relationship with God and our mortal sins break our relationship with God but through this sacrament God reconciles us, meaning his fixes what we broke.
Today we have six of God’s precious children who will be making their First Penance. I imagine some of them may be nervous or scared. That’s okay. I bet if I asked the adults here, some of them are probably nervous too. It can be scary to talk about our sins. We don’t like to admit when we have done something wrong.
Yet we need to. In our first reading, Paul writes to the Corinthians about how Jesus rescues us from darkness. The “darkness” he is talking about is our sins. When we have broken God’s commandments we step away from God. Without God there is darkness.
The good news is that God loves us so much to give us a way out of the darkness. God loves each and every one of us. To tell us how much, Jesus tells us the Parable of the Lost Sheep. He tells us about the shepherd who is taking care of 100 sheep. One is missing. He still has 99 but he isn’t happy because one is missing. So, he goes looking for that one sheep and when he finds it, he rejoices.
When we sin, we can feel like we are lost. God loves us so much that He will do great things to bring us home. That’s why God sent Jesus. Jesus came to save us. In just a couple of weeks we will celebrate Christmas. This is the day that Jesus was born for us. Jesus came to rescue us from our sins.
God doesn’t like it when we sin but God is so happy when we come to confess our sins and say that we are sorry.
Think of it this way. Have you had a good friend do something that hurt you or made you feel bad? Next ask yourselves how much better you feel if your friend comes to you and tells you they are sorry.
Did you forgive them?
Jesus does. First, we tell Jesus what it is that we have done. Then, we accept a penance, and make our Act of Contrition to say how sorry we are. Then the priest will say the words of absolution as God forgives us.
One of things we should before going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation is an Examination of Conscience. This invites us to think about what we need to confess. Some sins may come readily to mind. Others may not come so readily to mind. The Examination of Conscience guides us to remember our forgotten sins and make a good confession. You can find an Examination of Conscience I wrote (with the help of some others) online along with some videos and other materials I wrote at http://www.renewaloffaith.org/reconciliation.html.