Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 13, Part 2, Acknowledging Sin

Section 13 of this document continues with a look at the first stage of turning back to God. Pope John Paul II reminds us of the classic realizations of the Bible, one from each of the Testaments–David the King and the impoverished lost son of the Lord’s parable.

To acknowledge one’s sin, indeed-penetrating still more deeply into the consideration of one’s own personhood-to recognize oneself as being a sinner, capable of sin and inclined to commit sin, is the essential first step in returning to God. For example, this is the experience of David, who “having done what is evil in the eyes of the Lord” and having been rebuked by the prophet Nathan,(Cf 2 Samuel 11-12) exclaims: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.”(Cf Psalm 51:3-4) Similarly, Jesus himself puts the following significant words on the lips and in the heart of the prodigal son: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.”(Cf Luke 15:18, 21)

When the Roman liturgy proclaims the parable of the two sons in the 24th Ordinary Sunday in cycle C, it folds that acclamation of the lost son into the singing of the 51st Psalm. If we read Jesus’ telling of his parable accurately, the father recognizes from afar the acknowledgement of the son. He almost ignores the prepared speech, interrupting the confession to embrace and welcome his son’s return.

Pope Francis suggests this return to confession is at least as important as the detailing of sins. Confessors who focus overly much on type and number and who neglect discernment are missing the meaning of the Lord’s teaching.

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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