What's the difference between Confession and Reconciliation?
Confession, one aspect of the Sacrament of Reconciliation which used to
receive the greatest emphasis, is now seen as just one step in the total
process. Confession of sin can only be sincere if it is preceded by the
process of conversion. It is actually the external expression of the
interior transformation that conversion has brought about in us. It is a
much less significant aspect of the sacrament than we made it out to be in
the past. This does not mean that confession is unimportant-only that it is
not the essence of the sacrament.
Look at the parable of the Prodigal Son. The father, seeing his son in the
distance, runs out to meet him with an embrace and a kiss. Through one
loving gesture, the father forgives the son-and the son hasn't even made his
confession yet! When he does, it seems the father hardly listens. The
confession is not the most important thing here; the important thing is that
his son has returned. The son need not beg for forgiveness, he has been
forgiven. This is the glorious Good News: God's forgiveness, like God's
love, doesn't stop. In this parable, Jesus reveals to us a loving God who
simply cannot not forgive!
Of course the new Rite does concern itself with the confession of sins. But
one's sinfulness is not always the same as one's sins. And, as a sacrament
of healing, Reconciliation addresses the disease (sinfulness) rather than
the symptoms (sins). So, the sacrament calls us to more than prepared
speeches or lists of sins. We are challenged to search deep into our heart
of hearts to discover the struggles, value conflicts and ambiguities (the
disease) which cause the sinful acts (the symptoms) to appear.
Celebration is a word we haven't often associated with the Sacrament of
Reconciliation. But in Jesus' parable, it is obviously important and
imperative. "Quick!" says the father. "Let us celebrate." And why? Because a
sinner has converted, repented, confessed and returned.
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