It is God who forgives sins. God forgives us the very moment we realize we need forgiveness, which itself comes through God’s grace. At that moment, we feel sorrow and a desire for forgiveness and healing, and we are reconciled with God. The reunion, the bond, the connection, and the joy are all there. Three more things remain: forgiveness and healing deep within our heart, celebration of that forgiveness, and participation in the healing process.
We need to celebrate the reconciliation we have received. In the sacrament of reconciliation—individually or in common—we have the wonderful opportunity to ritualize that celebration. In the sacrament, our personal journey is joined with the mystery of God’s saving love, as seen in the Scriptures and in God’s desire to save us all. This is deeply personal. There, in ritual form, even if it is just us and the priest, we step forward and admit that we are sinners, express our sorrow, and name the places in our life where God is shining a light into what we have done and what we have failed to do. Then God's forgiveness is proclaimed out loud for us to hear and rejoice in:
“May God give you pardon and peace.”
Examination of Conscience
An examination of conscience is the act of looking prayerfully into our hearts to ask how we have hurt our relationships with God and other people through our thoughts, words, and actions. We reflect on the The Ten Commandments and the teachings of the Church
My Relationship With God
What steps am I taking to help me grow closer to God and to others? Do I turn to God often during the day, especially when I am tempted?
Do I participate at Mass with attention and devotion on Sundays and holy days? Do I pray often and read the Bible?
Do I use God’s name and the names of Jesus, Mary, and the saints with love and reverence?
My Relationships With Family, Friends, and Neighbors
Have I set a bad example through my words or actions? Do I treat others fairly? Do I spread stories that hurt other people?
Am I loving of those in my family? Am I respectful of my neighbors, my 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, copied homework, 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 have hurt me?
How to Make a Good Confession
The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation includes the following steps:
1. The priest greets us, and we pray the Sign of the Cross. He invites us to trust in God. He may read God’s Word with us.
2. We confess our sins. The priest may help and counsel us.
3. The priest gives us a penance to perform. Penance is an act of kindness or prayers to pray, or both.
4. The priest asks us to express our sorrow, usually by reciting the Act of Contrition.
5. We receive absolution. The priest says, “I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” We respond, “Amen.”
6. The priest dismisses us by saying, “Go in peace.” We go forth to perform the act of penance he has given us.