Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 13, Part 1, Tragedy

We begin a very thorough Part Two, headlined with the statement: The Love That Is Greater Than Sin. I find Pope John Paul II to be a careful teacher and presenter of the nature of love and sin. I might quibble with a few particulars, especially when he gets to write on the supposed loss of a sense of sin. We’ll get to that in a few weeks. For today, we begin a discussion on The Tragedy of (Humankind). In the New Testament, we begin with a trusty guide, looking at the first letter of John:

13. In the words of St. John the apostle, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins.”(1 John 1:8-9) Written at the very dawn of the church, these inspired words introduce better than any other human expression the theme of sin, which is intimately connected with that of reconciliation.

This statement from 1 John presents quite a bit: the struggle to admit our sins but also the boundless depths of God’s forgiveness directed at us. Very early in Church history, long before individual confession became codified in liturgical practice, but quite true that admission of fault, contrition and acceptance of blame, and bringing these to God is vital for an experience of reconciliation, not just an understanding of a juridical procedure.

These words present the question of sin in its human dimension: sin as an integral part of the truth about (humankind). But they immediately relate the human dimension to its divine dimension, where sin is countered by the truth of divine love, which is just, generous and faithful, and which reveals itself above all in forgiveness and redemption. Thus St. John also writes a little further on that “whatever accusations (our conscience) may raise against us, God is greater than our conscience.”(1 John 3:20; cf my reference to this passage in my address at the general audience of March 14, 1984)

People who see the reality of their sin can sometimes engage another extreme. Pope Francis’ advice to confessors to move past self-accusations into forgiveness is important. It is reflected in the Father of Luke 15 cutting off the lost son’s prepared speech.

This document is Copyright © 1984 – Libreria Editrice Vatican. The link on the Vatican site is here.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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