The Rite of Penance Introduction begins with a Scripture-laden, four-paragraph section that leads off under the heading of “Mystery of Reconciliation in the History of Salvation.”
1. The Father has shown forth his mercy by reconciling the world to himself in Christ and by making peace for all things on earth and in heaven by the blood of Christ on the cross. [See 2 Cor 5:18ff.; Col 1:20.] The Son of God made man lived among us in order to free us from the slavery of sin [See Jn 8:34-36.] and to call us out of darkness into his wonderful light. [See 1 Pt 2:9.] He therefore began his work on earth by preaching repentance and saying: “Repent and believe the Gospel” (Mk 1:15).
One of the central ministries of Christ was to free human beings from sin. Christ’s sacrifice marked a radical breakthrough for expiation not only for the human approach to religion at that time, but even a shocking difference from the Jewish tradition. Religious figures calling the masses to repentance was not particularly new. The way in which Jesus did it and showed it: that was novel.
This invitation to repentance, which had often been sounded by the prophets, prepared people’s hearts for the coming of the kingdom of God through the voice of John the Baptist, who came “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Mk 1:4).
While the particulars of Jesus’ sacrifice may have been radical, the call to repentance was a constant for the tradition of Judaism, and indeed, of the ministry of John the Baptist.
How is the approach of Jesus distinctive? This paragraph tells it:
Jesus, however, not only exhorted people to repentance so that they would abandon their sins and turn wholeheartedly to the Lord, [See Lk 15.] but welcoming sinners, he actually reconciled them with the Father. [Lk 5:20 and 27-32, 7:48.] Moreover, he healed the sick in order to offer a sign of his power to forgive sin. [See Mt 9:2-8.] Finally, he himself died for our sins and rose again for our justification. [See Rom 4:25.] Therefore, on the night he was betrayed and began his saving passion, [See RM, Eucharistic Prayer III.] he instituted the sacrifice of the New Covenant in his blood for the forgiveness of sins. [See Mt 26:28.] After his resurrection he sent the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, empowering them to forgive or retain sins [See Jn 20:19-23.] and sending them forth to all peoples to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins in his name. [See Lk 24:47.]
And Peter’s role as Catholics understand it:
The Lord said to Peter: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed also in heaven” (Mt 16:19). In obedience to this command, on the day of Pentecost Peter preached the forgiveness of sins by baptism: “Repent and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). [See Acts 3:19 and 26, 17:30.] Since then the Church has never failed to call people from sin to conversion and through the celebration of penance to show the victory of Christ over sin.
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