By Zoe Cannon
Gratitude for the Gift of Faith
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15).
“Taking up one’s cross each day and following Jesus is the surest way of penance” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1435).
“Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with Him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church” (CCC 1440).
These powerful words in Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church should be considered every day! The Old and New Testaments provide a central theme concerning our human sinfulness and God’s eternal forgiveness. Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Reconciliation after His Resurrection. He breathed on His disciples and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:22-23).
The precepts of the Church are the absolute minimal guide for the actions of all the baptized regarding the Church. The five listed in the catechism are: to attend Mass on Sundays and Feasts of Obligation; to go to confession at least once a year; to receive Communion during the Easter season; to keep holy the Feasts of Obligation; and to observe the days of fasting and abstinence. The obligation of Sunday Mass is based on the Third Commandment: “Remember to keep the Sabbath holy.” It is important because missing Sunday Mass without just cause is a mortal sin. We are blessed with the Sacrament of Reconciliation, which offers the cleansing of our souls to worthily receive the gift of the Eucharist.
Since the beginning of September, I have been preparing our grandson for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. His heartfelt questions and concerns have made me realize how much I take the sacrament for granted. We read and discussed bible stories about the people Jesus embraced as sinners, those healed by the power of a merciful God: the tax collector Zacchaeus, the Samaritan women, Mary Magdalene, and the stories of the Prodigal Son and the Good Shepherd. Our grandson’s understanding of the Catholic faith grew deeper because of his eagerness to learn and the purity of his heart.
Preparing children for this sacrament is an amazing way to increase their vocabulary and review the Ten Commandments. The meaning of words like sin, contrition, absolution, forgiveness and mercy, free will, actual grace and examination of conscience are all new to a seven-year-old; but their understanding of God’s love is immediate and precious. Our grandson’s concern was that he might forget to mention some of his sins and not have a clean soul when it comes time to receive Jesus in the Eucharist. If everyone were this concerned about his or her soul, the world would be beautiful.
On Nov. 21, the Feast of Christ the King, our grandson received his First Reconciliation. Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925. The purpose of the celebration was to bring God back into a secular world, by acknowledging Jesus as the King of Kings. We need contrite hearts in our world. As you prepare your heart for Jesus this Advent, please remember to pray for conversion in our country.
During our preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I was pleased by our grandson’s ability to recite or write prayers from his heart. We learn from children as we teach them about the faith, and it is a blessing to share the love of Jesus with them. “Create in me a clean heart, God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10). Amen!