Tuesday, 6 March 2007

And forgive us our trespasses

What a marvellous thing it is to be forgiven!

Among non-Catholics (and maybe also among many Catholics), Confession is probably the least understood of all the sacraments.

"So you can just do what you like, go and say sorry for it and get forgiven, and then carry on exactly as you were? What a cop-out!"

Well yes, that would be a cop-out. Forgiveness demands genuine repentance and a desire not to do wrong again. We make this clear in the Act of Contrition:

"Oh my God, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you, because you are so good, and with the help of your grace, I will try not to sin again."

We are human, and we often fail. But we pick ourselves up again and promise to keep trying - and in His infinite mercy, God keeps forgiving us for the times we have failed. However often we fail, and however grievous our sins, He never stops loving us - so much so, that He sent His only Son to die for us sinners.

So how do we reconcile the idea of Hell with a loving, forgiving God?

The Catechism tells us that "The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs" (1035).

God is ever-loving and will forgive all sin. But we, who are so much less than God, sometimes find it impossible to forgive ourselves. In our shame, instead of throwing ourselves on God's mercy, we turn away from Him. The true Hell is when we reject God's forgiveness and turn away from His great love.

5 comments:

Mac McLernon said...

"Oh my God, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you, because you are so good, and with the help of your grace, I will try not to sin again."

...I think you'll find that the Act of Contrition says "I will not sin again."

Simon-Peter said...

Hello: that Act of Contrition, where did it come from?

A good act of contrition should speak to imperfect and perfect so we don;t forget. One of the reasons why so many do not go to confession is not just they have lost all sense of sin, they think they are prefectly contrite (forgetting that even if you are - and how can one trully tell? - you still have to go to sacramental confession as soon as you can).

"Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee, and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishments, the fires of hell and the loss of heaven, but most of all, because they offend Thee, my God, Who art all Good and worthy of all my love. I firmly intend, with the help of Thy Grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occassion of sin. Amen."

BTW: I posted something under Tempus Fugit I think you'll like, we seem to be thinking along the same lines.

newhousenewjob said...

Mac, you got me wondering, so I googled it and found both "I will not" and "I will try not" (see, for instance, http://www.cathmsa.org/Confession1.pdf for "I will try not"). I prefer "I will try not", because for me it's more accurate and shows a bit more humility - and without God's grace, we wouldn't even be trying, let alone succeeding. I think "I will try" expresses a similar sentiment to "I firmly intend".

Simon-Peter, I did hesitate before picking this one, as there seem to be several Acts of Contrition around (and I agree that this one is not the best - but it did illustrate my particular point as well as any of the others would, I think). This one was the one that I was taught when I made my First Confession, and it seems to be the one that is used most often in the English parishes I've known - a copy is usually provided in the confessional.

I've skimmed your Tempus Fugit post and did find it interesting, but didn't get home till almost midnight this evening - will read it properly when I have more time.

Simon-Peter said...

New: at least you were taught to make First Confession!

Good for you!

But that's a whole other story!

Anyway, like I said before, I think you're great, so don't take what I say as Mr. Meanie.

"because for me it's more accurate and shows a bit more humility - and without God's grace"

"I firmly intend, with the help of Thy Grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occassion of sin."

It is the inner groanings that are important, as someone better than me said, "I would rather be contrite than know its definition."

newhousenewjob said...

"Inner groanings" - I like that! Thanks for the encouragement, Simon-Peter - being new to all this, it's nice to know someone's reading and appreciating it. :¬)