How can the Catholic Church forgive sins?
Christianity isn’t about being perfect. It’s about being forgiven. Disciples of Jesus aren’t perfect, they’re forgiven.
Emily: When I was five years old, my mom set up my sister and me with a craft activity to play with. We were so excited because we got to use the “big kid” scissors instead of the little plastic ones. Of course, she warned us to be careful and use them properly. But my sister and I thought it would be more fun to cut our hair instead of the paper. We hid under the table playing “salon” until mom came back and found us.
Edmund: Oh no. What did your mom do?
Emily: The consequences were what you would expect. Not only did we have to live with an awkward haircut for a few weeks, we also didn’t get to play with scissors for a while after that. My mom was actually a bit upset about the whole thing. But we said “sorry” and my mom and sister and I laugh about it now.
Edmund: Those little moments are so special once you grow up and look back on them.
Emily: That’s so true, and forgiveness is such an important part of close relationships.
Edmund: Okay, that’s an interesting way to say it.
Emily: Think about it. We go to one another and ask for forgiveness, because no one is perfect. And we believe in second chances. Forgiveness isn’t just something we should take for granted. We say in the creed we believe in the forgiveness of sins. That’s a big deal if you think about it.
Edmund: Yeah and I guess I’ve always been grateful for forgiveness.
Emily: We believe in the Holy Spirit, the communion of saints, and the Church. And the forgiveness of sins is mentioned in the same sentence as all of these things, perhaps because the Church and the apostles received the Holy Spirit and the power to forgive sins.
Edmund: Okay but what do we mean by “sins” again?
Emily: The word “sin” in the bible comes from the Greek word Hamartia or the Hebrew word Khata, which both mean “to miss the mark”. The word was used in archery and spear throwing. When a person missed the bullseye they erred, or “hamartia-ed”. It’s not just “doing a bad thing” it means we fall short of our potential for goodness. In archery, we sometimes, either intentionally or unintentionally, miss the bullseye.
Edmund: How does the Church forgive our sins?
Emily: The Church can forgive sins through the power of the sacraments. First, through baptism — which heals us of original sin, and any personal sins up until that moment.
Edmund: Wow. Since I was baptized as a baby, I never thought about it being about forgiveness.
Emily: When John the Baptist was baptizing people, they were being baptized as a way to repent of their sins. Christian baptism is repentance, but it’s also something more! Sin is forgiven and we are “regenerated”. — We’re truly changed in our being and are made sons and daughters of God — sharing a new relationship with him which is not possible apart from baptism.
Edmund: But…… and I hate to break this to you, but I’ve probably missed the mark a bit since being baptized as a baby.
Emily: Well thankfully, the forgiveness we receive from God at baptism is like a gift we can open again and again.
Edmund: Okay, and this is where confession comes in! Right?
Emily: Yes, Jesus gave the power of the keys of the kingdom to the pope as leader of the Church on earth. The keys mean the authority of the kingdom of God. God alone has the authority to forgive, because he is ultimately the one against whom a sin offends. Not because he’s an angry God, but because he created us to be good. He is goodness, so our sins not only hurt others, they also are committed against God, our creator. So he is ultimately the one who can truly give us forgiveness and restore us.
Edmund: So the Church, a priest, is able to forgive us on behalf of Jesus.
Emily: God, through the priest, is the one who forgives. The priest absolves us of sin in God’s name through the Sacrament of Penance —which is also referred to as the sacrament of reconciliation, confession, or conversion.
Edmund: Okay like to be reconciled back to….the Church?
Emily: Jesus forgives us of sin through the priest and the Church, and we are reconciled to God and the Church, which means we are also reconciled to one another. And, this might seem pretty crazy, but, there is no sin the Church can’t forgive on behalf of Jesus.
Edmund: Okay I get that and it’s pretty wild.
Emily: Remember how Peter denied Jesus?
Edmund: Boy do I ever. I would not want to be that guy.
Emily: After the resurrection Peter was able to sit with Jesus on the beach and receive forgiveness from him for the ways he had failed him. Jesus sought out Peter and reconciled his relationship with him. Imagine what that must have been like.
Edmund: Yeah that would be so intense.
Emily: Well, we are able to be forgiven by Jesus, too! The word reconciliation has “cilia” in it, which is also what eyelashes are called. In reconciliation we are able to come back “eyelash to eyelash”, back into intimacy with Jesus. And we BELIEVE in this forgiveness. We often stumble as we are walking along the path of discipleship. God meets us where we are, but he loves us too much to leave us there. Through the forgiveness and grace that God offers us in Jesus Christ, we have the hope of sharing in Christ’s resurrection and living with him forever in Heaven!
U.13 — CCC 1066-1209
In the Mass we participate in the “work of God” as the “people of God.” Through, with, and in Jesus, we offer our lives to God the Father in the…Watch
U.12 — CCC 988-1065
Jesus said that at the end of time, all of us will be given a new body and rise from the dead. This applies to all people — those who…Watch
U.10 — CCC 946-962
Our lives as Christians are intertwined with the men and women who have walked before us in the faith.Watch
U.9 — CCC 748-975
The Church is the true home of any follower of Jesus. And in the home of the Church, we can find a place we truly belong.Watch