Today’s post reviews the damage caused outside the person by the sinner. First, a review of the notion that sin disrupts our relationship with God:
5. Since every sin is an offense against God that disrupts our friendship with him, “the ultimate purpose of penance is that we should love God deeply and commit ourselves completely to him.” [Paul VI, Ap. Const. Paenitemini, 17 Feb, 1966: AAS 58 (1966) 179. See also Lumen Gentium 11. ]
A reminder of the trinitarian nature of the process of penance:
Therefore, the sinner who by the grace of a merciful God embraces the way of penance comes back to the Father who “first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19), to Christ who gave himself up for us, [See Gal 2:20; Eph 5:25.] and to the Holy Spirit who has been poured out on us abundantly. [See Ti 3:6.]
And a reminder of the communal aspect of individual sin:
“The hidden and gracious mystery of God unites us all through a supernatural bond: on this basis one person’s sin harms the rest even as one person’s goodness enriches them .” [Paul VI, Ap. Const. Indulgentiarum doctrina, I Jan. 1967, no. 4. See also Pius XII, Encycl. Mystici Corporis, 29 June 1943: AAS 35 (1943) 213.] Penance always therefore entails reconciliation with our brothers and sisters who remain harmed by our sins.
And perhaps the best briefly-worded case for the importance of believers joining together to offer a mutual assistance in penance:
In fact, people frequently join together to commit injustice. But it is also true that they help each other in doing penance; freed from sin by the grace of Christ, they become, with all persons of good will, agents of justice and peace in the world.
I’d say this communal value, never very well defined or elucidated in the post-conciliar experience, is probably fading even more from the Catholic consciousness. Not a good thing, I’d say. In many parishes, the communal liturgies of reconciliation are more a pragmatic consideration: bringing the largest numbers of confessors and penitents together at the most mutually convenient time. But at least we have that. The pre-conciliar landscape was more bleak, and the divorce of sacrament from liturgy more stark.
About the designation of forgiven penitents as “agents of justice and peace,” what do you think of that?