“Helping people understand that their fears keep them from realizing God’s love, and the love of others, means that penance takes on a medicinal nature; it offers a ‘healing of the wound,'” Father Brian Bransfield said.
That’s different from models of penance that emphasize the juridical or “mercantile,” he suggested. The sacrament is not a court decision or an exchange of offenses for retribution, but an encounter with God’s mercy, forgiveness and love.
The notion of Reconciliation as a sacrament of healing gained ground after Vatican II, but perhaps not in the minds of most Catholics. Long-time readers know I think more reform is needed in this sacrament. And while I applaud the emphasis on Reconciliation as medicinal, first and foremost, it is liturgical. That said, some of Bransfield’s practical suggestions should be taken to heart: confessorspreparing for the sacrament well in advance, prominent posting of times for the sacrament, planning for an identifiable location, a positive demeanor in the confessor, the need for confessors to be “deep listeners.”