Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God's mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.

Catechism of the Catholic Church 1422

The Sacrament of Reconciliation has been known by three different names throughout history:

  • Confession
  • Penance
  • Reconciliation

A Sacrament is a visible sign of God’s presence, God’s activity in our lives, in the Church and in our world. But it goes beyond that! Sacraments not only show us what God is like and what God dreams for us; Sacraments also make that happen!

Let’s look at the three titles that we have used to name this Sacrament.


If we call the Sacrament “Confession,” this captures one important aspect of the Sacrament. It involves us confessing what we have consciously done wrong, our sins. But if we focus on this alone, we kind of get the lens out of focus, don’t we?

If we focus only on confessing our sins, we are looking only at what we have done wrong. That's not the main focus of the Sacrament, because a Sacrament is meant to tell us something about God.


If we call the Sacrament “Penance,” this also captures one aspect of the Sacrament, for the Sacrament does involve us taking on a penance—doing something to make up for what we have done wrong. But if we focus on this alone, we kind of get the lens out of focus, don’t we?

If we focus only on what we need to do to make up, we’re missing what God wants to accomplish in this Sacrament.


But if we call the Sacrament “Reconciliation,” then we have the focus more clear. The Sacrament is really about what God wants to do in us and through us and for us in this wonderful encounter.

It tells us that God is love, and love is always ready to forgive, no matter what the wrong.

It tells us that God already knows the secrets of our hearts, but sometimes we need to name these aloud in order to prepare our hearts to renew the experience of God’s love and forgiveness.

It tells us that, as God is One, God dreams that we might all be one as well—one with each other and one with God. God’s will is that all people will be reconciled with one another and with God.

To find out more about this great gift of God and how you can celebrate it in your life, contact your pastor or other pastoral leader.


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