Tag Archives: Reconciliation

Repentance

Fr. James Chelich

Repentance is an act by which you take on a whole new attitude toward the sinful habits and addictions that cling to your life. Repentance means you ACKNOWLEDGE CLEARLY that God is right about you and sin in your life: your sinful habits and addictions control you; they can, and often do, easily pull your life apart. Repentance means you DECLARE EMPHATICALLY, without any reservation or exception: “The sin in my life has to go — all of it!” Repentance means you HUMBLY ADMIT that you are powerless to free yourself from your sinful addictions, that you need God’s help and that you are ready and willing to reach out and take firm hold of it. Repentance means that you GET DOWN ON YOUR KNEES and transfer control of your life to God.

You must lay aside your former way of life and the Old Self which deteriorates through illusion and desire, and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking. You must put on that New Man created in God’s image, Whose justice and holiness are born of the truth. Ephesians 4:22-24

Repentance is the ‘attitude of heart’ in which God’s grace ‘works’ to defeat the Old Self within you. When your heart is set in the attitude of repentance, God’s grace can take hold of your sinful habits and work powerful changes within you. Let’s take a look at how the attitude of repentance actually works with God’s grace in defeating the Old Self.

“You must deny your very self, take up your cross each day and follow in my steps” Luke 9:23 “…follow in my steps…”

To “follow in the steps” of Jesus means a commitment and effort to form your entire life in the pattern of Jesus’ life: your attitude, the way you speak and the way you act. To do this you will need to speak to the Lord daily in prayer, read the Scriptures, strengthen yourself with the Sacraments, exercise yourself in charity, and practice justice and peace. As you do these things each day, you will begin to notice more and more clearly the parts of your ‘Old Self’ that cling to you. These are the sinful habits and addictions that want to control and pull your life apart: bitterness, lust, lewd conduct, quick temper, harsh words, insults, foul language, violence, slander, lying, stealing, drunkenness, etc. (Ref. Eph 4:25-31 and Col 3:5-10) Each time one of these rises within you, you must ‘deny it’ and ‘take it to the Cross’.

“…deny your very self…”

To ‘deny’ a part of your Old Self does not mean to pretend that it does not exist in you. It means to face the sinful habit and decide that you will no longer let it go on living in you. This is done in prayer patterned on the attitude of repentance: Lord, I acknowledge clearly that you are right about the sin in my life. It has control of me and wants to destroy my life. I declare, without any reservation: I want this sin to go — all of it! I humbly admit that I am powerless to defeat it. I reach out to You for help. I need your Divine Love to defeat the forces of sin and death in my life. Lord, I transfer control of my life to You. I open my heart to Your love and the power of Your grace.

“…take up your cross each day…”

Jesus carried his cross to Calvary. This is exactly where you are to carry your sinful habits and addictions. On his cross, Jesus broke the power of sin over your life. To ‘take up your cross each day’ means to take your sinful habits and addictions to the Cross of Jesus, as often as they rise in you and as soon as they show themselves. You do this by immediately turning to the Lord in prayer. Ask Jesus to let you stand at the foot of his Cross. With your whole heart reach out and claim the power of his saving death to overcome this temptation and to put this sinful habit or addiction to death: Jesus, this old part of myself rises to take control of me again. I stand beneath your cross and I claim the power you won for me by your death and resurrection. Your death, “was death to sin, once for all”; I claim the power of your redeeming Love to defeat this temptation and to put this sinful addiction to death. I nail it to the wood of your Cross. Let it die in the blood you shed out of love for me.

Receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation Declare your sins to one another, and pray for one another, That you may find healing. James 5:16

Taking your sins to the cross of Jesus is exactly what confession and the Sacrament of Reconciliation is all about. In the Sacrament the Holy Spirit brings you before Jesus crucified. Here the Church stands with you and joins you in claiming the grace to put your sinful habits and addictions to death within you. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin…

If we acknowledge our sins, he who is just can be trusted to forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrong. 1 John 1:7,9

The death of Jesus on the Cross was the death of every sin that you bring to his Cross:

This we know: our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful (sin addicted) body might be destroyed and we might be slaves to sin no longer. Romans 6:6

The resurrection of Jesus from the dead was resurrection and new life for all who die to the Old Self in Him:

You can depend on this: if we have died with him, we shall live with him.” 2 Timothy 2:11

The Victory is Yours if You Persevere!

Let us lay aside every encumbrance of sin which clings to us and persevere in running the race which lies ahead; let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who inspires and perfects our faith… Do not grow despondent or abandon the struggle. Hebrews 12:1-3 Thanks be to God who has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 1 Corinthians 15:57,

Confession of Sins and The Sacrament of Reconciliation

Fr. James Chelich, Lent 2000

What’s in the name?

The Sacrament is called by three names: Confession, because this is the courageous human act at the heart of the Sacrament; Penance, because receiving the Sacrament is a sacred taking of responsibility for our words, deeds and attitudes and their consequences on the people and world around us; and Reconciliation, because it describes the result of the Sacrament: reconciliation with God, with one another and with the world around us.

Fearing the Things Most Essential for Our Humanity

Some skills, disciplines and exercises are constitutive of woman or manhood — of maturity of soul. I call them the Essential Exercises of Adulthood. Sadly, most people are afraid of doing them.

“Examine yourselves” Test yourselves to see whether you are living in faith. 2 Corinthians 13:5a

It is my conviction that any person’s life could be turned around 180 degrees if they would perform a simple spiritual exercise five times a day. Stop all activity of any kind. Sit quietly a moment. Answer these questions to yourself: What did I just finish doing? How do I feel about what I have done? What would I have liked to have done differently? What am I going to do next? How do I want to do it? Now add the following prayer: Lord, I do not want to go ahead alone. Move with me. Help me listen a little longer. Show me what is really going on and help me contribute something constructive. Mother Teresa of Calcutta says, “silence is the friend of God.” I agree and would add, “reflection is the friend of our humanity.” Every time we fail to stop and think, and ask questions about what we are doing, we always end up behaving less-than-human. Even if the activity itself is the most noble in the world, if we do not punctuate it with moments for reflection, we will end up beating someone over the head with it or trampling something under foot doing it. I often ask people: Would you like to marry someone who regularly stops to think about the way they talk to you and treat you, and then comes to you and says, “I regret saying or doing that. I am sorry. Please forgive me?” Or would you rather marry someone who never thinks about the way they speak to you and treat you, and never takes responsibility for the way their words and actions affect you? You want to marry the first one, right? Everyone does, but not every one wants to do what it takes to be the first one.

“Confess your sins” Declare your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you many find healing. James 5:16
“I was wrong” “I am sorry” “I ask your forgiveness”

Saying of these words are essential to healthy human relationship, either relationship with God or relationship with others. Is it so strange that the Bible tells you so and that the Church teaches you to make the saying of them an integral part of your life? It is not easy to examine your words, actions and attitudes. It is not easy to tell the truth about yourself out loud. But Jesus tells us it is necessary…

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32

…and the Bible tells us why: As long as I would not speak my bones wasted away with my groaning all the day, for day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Then I acknowledged my sin to you, my guilt I covered not. I said, “I confess my faults to the Lord, and you took away the guilt of my sin. Psalm 32:3-5 It is essential to name your sins out loud and to another. Doing this objectifies the sin and draws it, in a sense, outside of you where it can be identified as what you do and distinguished from who you are. Now you can address the sin and renounce it as not who you choose to be. The power of God is drawn to the truth spoken and the change desired. Naming your sins also breaks the spell of denial. As long as we refuse to name the truth about ourselves out loud and to another, our life remains hidden in the shadows growing in our Conscience. We live in fear of the truth about our past and present – anxious that it might become known, threatened by those we fear might see and reveal it. We choose “friends” who will enter into what I call an “unholy social contract” with us. They agree to pretend they don’t see the truth about us, and we agree to pretend not to see the truth about them. Relationship is built not upon the reality of who we are, but upon the illusions we wish to preserve about ourselves. This blocks all emotional, spiritual and relational growth.

Are you not aware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death…?

…Through baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life… This we know: our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed and we might be slaves to sin no longer… His death was death to sin, once for all; his life is life for God. In the same way, you must consider yourselves dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus. Romans 6:3-5, 6,10-11 When you are baptized and become a Christian, you make a series of promises that can be summed up in these words:

“I will be dead to sin! I will be alive for God!”

But how does a woman or man “die to sin” in order to “live for God”? Receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation is the way Jesus gave us to “die to sin” and stay alive for God. On the day Jesus rose from the dead he appeared to the apostles. The first thing the risen Lord Jesus did was to give his apostles the power to forgive people’s sins. On the evening of that first day of the week, even though the disciples had locked the doors of the place where they were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood before them. “Peace be with you,” he said. When he had said this he showed them his hands and side. At the sight of the Lord the disciples rejoiced. “Peace be with you,” he said again. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them if you hold then bound, they are held bound.” John 20:19-23 This is where the Sacrament of Reconciliation comes from in the Bible. Jesus, himself, created it. The spiritual authority Jesus gave to his apostles continues in the Church through the “laying on of hands” (2 Timothy 1:6-14) in the ordination of Bishops, who are successors of the Apostles, and priests who are living extensions of the Bishop’s apostolic ministry. The spiritual authority to forgive sins confessed is one aspect of this spiritual authority.

If anyone should sin. We have, in the presence of the Father, Jesus Christ, an intercessor who is just. He is an offering for our sins… If we acknowledge our sins, he who is just can be trusted to forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrong. 1 John 2:1 and 1:9

We can be defeated by our past, with its sins and errors and the shame which it creates. The answer is not to deny our sins or hide in shame, but to name them and seek forgiveness, healing and regeneration. Jesus made provision for this by offering Himself in ransom for us and shedding his blood to wash our past clean and set us confidently in the present. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation we find not only the experience of this but the absolute guarantee of it. The Latin word, sacramentum, means “vow”. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the “Vow of God” that our sins are forgiven and the innocence of the children of God has been restored to us.

What does the Word of God teach us?

Self-examination is an essential exercise if we are to live and behave as human beings. There are words that are absolutely essential to a life-giving relationship with God, with others and with the world around us. Among these words are: “I was wrong.” “I am sorry.” “I ask your forgiveness.” If we are going to stop sinning, it is essential to name your sins out loud and to another. The ongoing effort to die to sin and live more completely for God is an indispensable part of what is means to be a Christian. Jesus has provided a forum for this effort: the Sacrament of Reconciliation. He has vowed to be personally present in it and endowed it with his supernatural power to forgive sin, regenerate life, heal souls and reconcile individuals to a right and life-giving relationship with God, with others and with the world around them.

How Do YOU Make the Sign of the Cross?

The Meaning Hidden in the Construction
Fr. James Chelich, 1995

blue_cross

A cross is constructed of two beams: an upright or vertical beam, and a horizontal beam. Each beam “says” something. It possesses a psychological meaning. The upright or vertical beam says, “God controls.” the horizontal beam says, “I control.”

G O D I C O N T R O L C O N T R O L S

Fixed together to form a cross, they express the inner conflict with God experienced at one time or another by every woman or man: “God does not control the way I want things controlled.” “God does not control according to my wants, my expectations, my demands.” The cross expresses our fundamental problem with God: God is not the god I would be. Our wills are sharply opposed to God’s at a number of critical points, on a number of issues. This creates an uncomfortable, even painful tension. We resolve this tension in our favor philosophically by saying, “If there is to be true freedom, I must be in control.” We resolve the problem theologically by saying, “After all, were we not created to ‘be like gods?’”(Gn 3:5)

Why People Stand at a Distance from Crosses

Getting too near a cross is painful. Not only does it express too clearly the conflict with God we carry within us, it brings to memory too well the past (and present) consequences of our controlling: the opportunities for growth and change we shut down by our need to be in control, and the people we crucified with the words and actions we used to take control. Somehow, down deep, a man or woman knows that if they get too near a cross they might see all this and have to admit: “I am out of control!” At the cross our most cherished illusion is shattered and we are challenged to embrace the most fundamental and painful of all human truths: “I am not God.”

Cross or Crucifix?

For a Catholic there is no such thing as a cross without someone hanging on it. The only cross we know is the crucifix. This does not mean that it is any easier for us to get near the cross, face the consequences of “I control”, or embrace the truth that our lives are out of control. It does mean that when we find the courage to approach the cross or discover that the cross has found us, we need only look up and we will see our God, hanging there, waiting for us.

God’s Presence Makes a Difference

God’s presence on the cross makes the cross an expression of something new and very different. It now says: “You are loved, you don’t have to control.” Once you open your heart to hear this, the entire psychological meaning of the cross is transformed. The two beams take on an entirely new meaning. The upright or vertical beam now says: “God initiates.” The horizontal beam now says: “I respond.” The beams joined together to form the cross now express a whole new pattern of relation-ship with God, others and the world around you:
“God initiates, I respond” The tremendous pressure in me to “fix” and make everything right is broken. “God initiates, I contribute” I contribute out of my gifts and talents, out of who I am and what I have to offer in the moment. “God initiates, I embrace” With human hands and heart and mind I embrace what God is doing in my life, in the life of another or in the world around me.
What was a symbol of endless conflict, crucifixion and death now becomes an expression of being loved and the expression of a new pattern of life. We can now come back to our original question:

How do You make the Sign of the Cross? G O D I C O N T R O L C O N T R O L S

OR…

G G G O O O D D D I R E S P O N D I C O N T R I B U T E I E M B R A C E I I I N N N I I I T T T I I I A A A T T T E E E S S S
“May I never boast of anything but the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! Through it the world has been crucified to me and I to the world… All that matters is that one is created anew. Peace and mercy on all who follow this rule of life.” Galatians 6:14-16