Reconciliatio et Paenitentia 29: “Whose Sins You Shall Forgive” Part 3: Biblical Images

Continuing on the topic of “Whose Sins You Shall Forgive”

Pope John Paul II offered a number of images from the Scriptures to reinforce his instruction to confessors as to what he wanted to see in the clergy of the church. First, the confessor acts in the person of Christ:

Just as at the altar where he celebrates the eucharist and just as in each one of the sacraments, so the priest, as the minister of penance, acts “in persona Christi”

Who is this person exactly? To both confessor and penitent, the Lord’s multivalent roles adapt to each situation and person as needed.

The Christ whom he makes present and who accomplishes the mystery of the forgiveness of sins is the Christ who appears as

  • (our) brother …, (Cf Matthew 12:49f; Mark 3:33f; Luke 8:20f; Romans 8:29:”the firstborn among many (sisters and brothers).”)
  • the merciful high priest, faithful and compassionate, (Cf Hebrews 2:17; 4:15)
  • the shepherd intent on finding the lost sheep, (Cf Matthew 18:12f; Luke 15:4-6)
  • the physician who heals and comforts, (Cf Luke 5:31f)
  • the one master who teaches the truth and reveals the ways of God, (Cf Matthew 22:16)
  • the judge of the living and the dead, (Cf Acts 10:42)
  • who judges according to the truth and not according to appearances. (Cf John 8:16)

A helpful meditation on Jesus for both the priest and penitent. Jesus is brother, priest, shepherd, physician, teacher, judge, and one who discerns with perfect wisdom. Circumstances might vary from day to day and person to person as to what might be emphasized or examined.

If I were a confessor, I might meditate on how my celebrations of this sacrament were leaning. A teacher might choose to explore being a brother. A judge might consider the role of merciful priest. And a penitent, approaching with fear, might consider Jesus as physician or mentor. You get the idea. I suspect an entire article or even a small book might be produced based on this paragraph and its citations alone.

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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