Katholisch Leben!

The Jesus Brothers

USCCB.org: The Sacrament of Penance

Sündenvergebung - brauche ich denn dafür einen Priester?

Wie läuft das eigentlich mit der Sündenvergebung? Braucht man dafür denn einen Priester - kann man das nicht direkt mit Gott ausmachen? Welche Mittel hat uns Jesus hinterlassen, um Sünden zu vergeben?

Zum einen natürlich die Taufe zur Vergebung der Sünden - also der Sünden, die vor der Taufe begangen wurden, einschließlich der Erbsünde.

Wie sieht es mit Jesus selbst aus? Während Seines Lebens hat auch Er Sünden vergeben (siehe etwa Johannes 8:1-11 oder Lukas 7:48).

"Ihr sollt aber erkennen, dass der Menschensohn die Vollmacht hat, hier auf Erden Sünden zu vergeben." (Markus 2:10; Einheitsübersetzung).

Jesus wusste aber auch, dass Er nicht für immer bei Seiner Kirche sein würde, also hat er die Autorität zur Vergebung der Sünden auf andere Männer übertragen. Zunächst erhielten die Apostel diese Macht, und von ihnen wurde sie weiter gegeben.

"Nachdem er das gesagt hatte, hauchte er sie an und sprach zu ihnen: Empfangt den Heiligen Geist! Wem ihr die Sünden vergebt, dem sind sie vergeben; wem ihr die Vergebung verweigert, dem ist sie verweigert." (Johannes 20:22-23; Einheitsübersetzung).

Christus wies die Apostel an, Seinem Beispiel zu folgen:

"Wie mich der Vater gesandt hat, so sende ich euch." (Johannes 20:21; Einheitsübersetzung).

"Amen, ich sage euch: Alles, was ihr auf Erden binden werdet, das wird auch im Himmel gebunden sein und alles, was ihr auf Erden lösen werdet, das wird auch im Himmel gelöst sein." (Matthäus 18:18; Einheitsübersetzung.)


Diese Macht kommt nicht aus ihnen selbst, sondern von Gott (siehe 2. Korinther 5:18, 20). Manche sagen nun, diese Macht wäre mit den Aposteln gestorben. Dem ist aber nicht so. Die Autoritäten, die nötig sind, um die Kirche spirituell am Leben zu erhalten, werden auch weiter gegeben.

Jesus gab uns den Auftrag, alle Menschen zu Seinen Jüngern zu machen. Und Er versprach uns, bis ans Ende aller Zeiten bei uns zu sein (siehe Matthäus 28:19-20).

Wenn man nun davon ausgeht, dass Christus eine Priesterschaft ins Leben gerufen hat, die die Vergebung der Sünden an Seiner statt umfasste, müsste man auch annehmen, dass die Nachfolger der Apostel - also die Bischöfe - und Christen späterer Jahre sich so benehmen, als würde diese Macht legitim und völlig normal ausgeübt. Wenn nicht, wenn all das nur eine "Erfindung" gewesen wäre, müsste man doch annehmen, dass die frühen Christen scharf dagegen protestiert hätten.

Haben sie?

In frühen christlichen Zeugnissen finden wir keinerlei Zeichen von Protest gegen die priesterliche Sündenvergebung. Die Beichte einem Priester gegenüber wurde im Gegensatz dazu als im Einklang mit den christlichen Glaubensgrundsätzen gesehen.

Wenn die Kirche all das nur erfunden hätte, wann sollte denn das geschehen sein? Da müsste es dann ja auch einen "Ausgangspunkt" geben. Manche geben das 4. Lateranische Konzil im Jahr 1215 an.

Bereits über 1.000 Jahre vor diesem Konzil gab es aber schriftliche christliche Zeugnisse über die Praxis der Beichte!

Im o.g. Konzil wurde die Beichte nicht erfunden - wohl aber diskutiert. Gegen den moralischen Verfall der damaligen Zeit empfahl man den Katholiken, wenigstens einmal im Jahr zur Beichte zu gehen.


(Fortsetzung folgt).







(Quelle: "Catholicism And Fundamentalism. The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians". Karl Keating, Ignatius Press)






Beichte - einige Infos

Am Ostermorgen wandte sich Jesus an die Apostel (wohlgemerkt die Apostel - das sollte man im Hinterkopf behalten, wenn man sich fragt, warum es bei Katholiken die Nachfolger der Apostel - also Priester und Bischöfe - sind, die die Beichte abnehmen und in Jesu nahmen die Absolution erteilen) mit diesen Worten:

"Empfangt den Heiligen Geist! Wem ihr die Sünden vergebt, dem sind sie vergeben, wem ihr die Vergebung verweigert, dem ist sie verweigert." (Joh 20,22 f.)

An anderer Stelle ist die Rede davon, dass der, der meint, hne Sünden zu sein, sich etwas vormacht! Wir sollen also nicht versuchen, alleine mit unseren Sünden fertig zu werden. Letztlich kann uns nur Gott von der persönlichen Schuld lösen und lossprechen (siehe auch 1. Joh 1,8 - 2,2).

Natürlich ist es nicht angenehm, seine Sünden zu beichten. Meist ziemlich peinlich. Wieviel leichter ist es, seine guten Seiten vor anderen heraus zu stellen oder Verfehlungen an anderen zu entdecken! Bei der Beichte bin es aber ich selbst, der zugeben muss, gesündigt zu haben.

Natürlich gehört auch eine Portion Mut dazu, seine Sünden zuzugeben, selbst wenn man sich ihrer schämt. Gleichzeitig ist dies aber ein befreiendes Gefühl.

Manche Menschen mögen vielleicht denken, Gott weiß doch sowieso alles, warum soll ich da noch beichten? Nun, Natürlich weiß Er alles - vor Ihm können wir nichts verbergen. Aber wie ein liebender Vater möchte auch Er, dass wir es Ihm selbst sagen.

Bevor wir beichten, sollten wir unser Gewissen erforschen - in Ruhe und mit Hilfe des Heiligen Geistes. Man kann etwa als Anhaltspunkt die 10 Gebote durchgehen oder die "Gewissensspiegel" im Gotteslob durchgehen. Auch sollten wir vorher beten und Gott um Mut bitten. Wichtig ist auch, dass wir bei der Beichte nicht versuchen, unsere Verfehlungen herunterzuspielen, schön zu reden oder anderen die Schuld dafür zu geben. Eine Beichte muss immer absolut offen und ehrlich erfolgen.

Natürlich bedarf es für eine Beichte auch der Reue. Wir können Jesus etwa sagen, wie leid es uns tut, ihn nicht ernst genommen zu haben.

Wenn wir all das getan haben und aufrichtig gebeichtet haben, spricht uns der Priester von unseren Sünden los. Was für ein befreiendes Gefühl das doch ist! Die Chance für einen neuen Anfang! Eine Auferstehung gleichsam! Unser Herz wird wieder rein und wir werden wieder der Gegenwart Jesu Christi gewahr.

Wir sollten uns auch nicht zu sehr herab setzen, wenn wir immer wieder dieselben Fehler machen. Gott ist ein liebender Gott und wir können das Bußsakrament wieder von neuem empfangen (was natürlich kein Freibrief für Sündigen ist!). Übrigens: Beichte ist nicht nur für "arme Sünder" wie dich oder mich gedacht. Auch Mutter Theresa hat gebeichtet, oder der Papst.

Wie oft sollen wir nun beichten? Nun, Beichte sollte eigentlich regelmäßig erfolgen. Man kann sich selbst gewisse Zeitabstände einteilen, und vielleicht zusätzlich auch dann beichten, wenn es notwendig ist. Es ist auch sinnvoll, wenn man einen Priester hat, bei dem man regelmäßg beichtet. Man kann diesen selbstverständlich auch um Hilfe bitten, wenn man sich unsicher ist.

 

(Quelle: von Pater Georg Greimel von den bayerischen Kapuzinern überarbeitete Vorlage von P. Dr. Karl Wallner OCist).

 

 

Warum beim Priester beichten?


Bereits die frühen Kirchenväter sprachen davon, die Wunden dem Doktor zu zeigen - und nichts anderes tun wir bei der Beichte!

(Quelle: Mike Cumbie, see: http://www.mikecumbie.org/)

Mehr über die Buße

Vergleicht man das in Mt 26,26-29 geschilderte Herrenmahl mit den Berichten an anderer Stelle im NT, findet sich bei Matthäus ein Zusatz, der sonst nirgends auftaucht: "zur Vergebung der Sünden". Ebenso findet sich diese Wendung in Mt 3,1-6 (Johannestaufe) - wiederum im Gegensatz zu vergleichbaren Stellen im NT. Was andere in der Johannestaufe sahen, sieht Matthäus in Bunddeszeichen des Blutes Jesu, an dem wir in der Eucharistie teilhaben dürfen. Sündenvergebung hat also durchaus etwas mit der Gemeinde als ganzer zu tun, die sich versammelt und am Herrenmahl teilnimmt.

Bereits im früher verfassten Thessalonicherbrief (siehe 1 Thess 5,14) zeigt sich ein HInweis, wie wir mit Sündern bzw. Schwachen umzugehen ist: hier wird Zurechtweisung ebenso verlangt wie Ermutigung, Annahme und Geduld.

In Mt 18,15-18 finden wir dann bereits eine Bußordnung. Nicht alle Elemente haben jedoch dieselbe Bedeutung: vor allem anderen kommt zunächst die persönlich Ermahnung - unter vier Augen. Alle weiteren Schritte sind nur anzugehen, wenn der Schritt zuvor erfolglos blieb. Die letztmögliche Alternative - wenn alles andere erfolglos blieb - ist schließlich der Ausschluss aus der eucharistischen Gemeinschaft. Es ist davon auszugehen, dass sich Matthäus hier an Judenchristen gewendet hat. Für Juden aber war es undenkbar, mit nichtjuden oder Sündern (Zölnnern) an einem Tisch zu sitzen.

Die Wörter "Binden" und "Lösen" kommen aus der jüdischen Bannpraxis. Mit "Binden" bezeichnete man das "Ausschließen" und mit "Lösen" das "Wiederaufnehmen". In Vers 18 schließlich lesen wir "im Himmel", was aber keineswegs den Himmel nach dem Tode meint, sondern im Sinne von "bei Gott" zu verstehen ist. Das in Mt 18,15-18 bezeichnete Verfahren hat also Gewicht auch vor Gott. Wer sich von der Gemeinde abwendet, wendet sich von Gott ab - und umgekehrt. Warum wird der Gemeinde hier ein so hoher Wert eingeräumt? In Vers 20 sagt Jesus, wo zwei oder drei in Seinem Namen versammelt sind, ist Er mitten unter ihnen. Jesus ist also in der Gemeinde gegenwärtig! Und Er ist es nicht nur ganz am Schluss des oben bezeichneten Verfahrens, sondern bereits ab der ersten Stufe! Auch dort können wir Gottes Vergebung erfahren.

Gehen wir nun kurz auf das Gleichnis vom verlorenen Schaf in den Versen 12-14 ein. Es endet mit dem Hinweis, dass auch unser himmlischer Vater nicht will, dass eines verloren geht. Als Petrus schließlich in Vers 21 Jesu fragt, wie oft man denn vergeben müsse, weist Jesus darauf hin, dass es hierfür keine Grenzen gibt. Ähnliches finden wir in den Versen 23-35: wer Vergebung erfahren will, muss auch selbst vergeben können. Aus dem gesamten Kontext, in dem diese Bußordnung steht, kann man also erkennen, dass "Binden" und "Lösen" keinesfalls gleichrangig sind. Ein eventueller Ausschluss aus der Gemeinde ist wirklich nur das allerletzte Mittel und selbst dann löst er das Problem nicht. Ein Sünder soll nicht ausgeschlossen, sondern zurück gewonnen werden.

 

 

(Fortsetzung folgt)

 

(Quelle: http://www.fernkurswuerzburg.de/ - sehr zu empfehlen!!)

 

Für einen Christen sind doch alle Sünden vergeben- egal, ob nun vergangene, momentane oder künftige!

Sehen wir uns hierfür Mt 6,14-15 an: "Denn wenn ihr den Menschen ihre Verfehlungen vergebt, dann wird euer himmlischer Vater auch euch vergeben. Wenn ihr aber den Menschen nicht vergebt, dann wird euch euer Vater eure Verfehlungen auch nicht vergeben" (Einheitsübersetzung). Unsere künftigen Sünden sind also nicht vergeben, bis wir vergeben. Wenn wir aber anderen nicht vergeben, wird unser himmlischer Vater auch uns nicht vergeben. Grammatikalisch wird hier das Futur verwendet, also die Zukunftsform. Es ist also keineswegs so, dass wir ein für allemal "gerettet" sind. Was müssen wir also tun? Wie sollen wir vorgehen? Nun, wir müssen zunächst bereuen und dann einem Priester unsere Sünden beichten (Jn 20,21-23). Wer denkt, ihm wäre ein für allemal alles vergeben, wer also meint, zu stehen, der gebe acht, dass er nicht fällt (1 Kor 10,12).

(Quelle: www.saintjoe.com)

 

Katholische Priester können doch keine Sünden vergeben!

"Ihr sollt aber erkennen, dass der Menschensohn die Vollmacht hat, hier auf der Erde Sünden zu vergeben. Darauf sagte er zu dem Gelähmten: Steh auf, nimm deine Tragbahre, und geh nach Hause! Und der Mann stand auf und ging heim. Als die Leute das sahen, erschraken sie und priesen Gott, der den Menschen solche Vollmacht gegeben hat." (Mt 9,6-8 - Einheitsübersetzung)

Den Menschen wurde also nicht nur die Vollmacht gegeben, andere Menschen zu heilen, sondern auch die Vollmacht, Sünden zu vergeben! Wohlgemerkt ist "Menschen" hier im Plural - es bezieht sich also nicht nur auf Jesus allein. Die Menschen des Neuen Testaments verstanden darunter also, dass Jesus Menschen die Vollmacht erteilt hat, anderen Menschen zu vergeben. Ebenso wie heute hatte man damals Angst vor dieser Autorität. Dazu gibt es aber keinen Grund, da dies eine Autorität ist, die dienenden und liebenden Charakter hat und vom Heiligen Geist geleitet wird - und nicht etwa ein von Menschen ins Leben gerufenes Machtinstrument.

Lesen wir Lk 17,3-4: "Seht euch vor! Wenn dein Bruder sündigt, weise ihn zurecht; und wenn er sich ändert, vergib ihm. Und wenn er sich siebenmal am Tag gegen dich versündigt und siebenmal wieder zu dir kommt und sagt: Ich will mich ändern!, so sollst du ihm vergeben." (Einheitsübersetzung).

Wenn nur Gott Sünden vergeben kann, warum sagt hier Jesus Seinen Jüngern, sie sollen die Sünden ihrer Brüder vergeben (Mt 6-14-15)? Als Laien haben wir natürlich auch die Macht, Sünden zu vergeben, diese unterscheidet sich aber von der Autorität zur Sündenvergebung, die Priester besitzen. Ein Priester ist ein Werkzeug Gottes der im Namen Gottes unsere Sünden vergibt. Heißt das nun, wir sollen einander nicht auch vergeben? Nein - wie sir schon im Vaterunser sehen!

Betrachten wir Mt 18,18: "Amen, ich sage euch: Alles, was ihr auf Erden binden werdet, das wird auch im Himmel gebunden sein und alles, was ihr auf Erden lösen werdet, das wird auch im Himmel gelöst sein." (Einheitsübersetzung)

Jesus hatte schon Petrus die Macht zu binden und zu lösen gegeben, nun gibt Er sie allen Aposteln. Was auch immer sie auf Erden binden bzw. lösen werden, wird auch im Himmel gebunden bzw. gelöst sein. Warum ist das so? Weil sie Christus selbst repräsentieren. Wenn sie binden, wird dies auch im Himmel gebunden sein, da Gott die Autorität anerkennt, die Er ihnen gegeben hat. Und wenn Gott diese Autorität anerkennt, warum sollten wir dies nicht auch tun?

Sehen wir uns nun 2 Kor 2,10 an: "Wem ihr aber verzeiht, dem verzeihe auch ich. Denn auch ich habe, wenn hier etwas zu verzeihen war, im Angesicht Christi um euretwillen verziehen" (Einheitsübersetzung)

Paulus sagt hier also, er habe im Angesicht Christi verziehen. Paulus und all seine Nachfolger aber sind "im Angesicht Christi", wenn sie die Beichte hören. Christus hat uns geboten, unsere Sünden zu beichten und als gläubige Christen befolgen wir dieses Gebot auch - bei den Priestern, denen Er durch die apsotolische Sukzession die Macht zur Sündenvergebung gegeben hat. Warum nicht direkt zu Gott gehen und ihn selbst um Vergebung bitten? Wissen wir aber, ob unsere Sünden dann vergeben sind? Als Katholiken gehen wir lieber zu Christus - in Gestalt des Priesters!

"Aber das alles kommt von Gott, der uns durch Christus mit sich versöhnt und uns den Dienst der Versöhnung aufgetragen hat." (2 Kor 5,18 - Einheitsübersetzung)

Den Aposteln und ihren Nachfolgern wurde das Sakrament der Versöhnung aufgetragen. Sie sollten nicht nur Gottes Wort predigen, sondern auch den Körper und den Geist der Menschen heilen. Und die Heilung der Seele geschieht durch das Sakrament der Versöhnung, dass uns mit dem Leib Christi - der Kirche - verbindet.

"Jesus sagte noch einmal zu ihnen: Friede sei mit euch! Wie mich der Vater gesandt hat, so sende ich euch. Nachdem er das gesagt hatte, hauchte er sie an und sprach zu ihnen: Empfangt den Heiligen Geist! Wem ihr die Sünden vergebt, dem sind sie vergeben; wem ihr die Vergebung verweigert, dem ist sie verweigert." (Jn 20,21-23 - Einheitsübersetzung).

Gott Vater hat Jesus mit Autorität ausgestattet ausgesendet - und genauso sendete Jesus die Apostel aus. Er hat ihnen den Heiligen Geist eingehaucht. Das einzige Mal, wo Gott jemanden angehaucht hat, war, als Er Leben in Adam eingehaucht hat. Jesus hat also die Apostel angehaucht und ihnen die Autorität gegeben, die Er seinerseits vom Vater bekommen hat. Und um zu wissen, welche Sünden zu vergeben waren und welche nicht, mussten die Apostel zunächst die Beichte gehört haben!

Kommen wir nun zu Jk 5,15-15: "Das gläubige Gebet wird den Kranken retten und der Herr wird ihn aufrichten; wenn er Sünden begangen hat, werden sie ihm vergeben. Darum bekennt einander eure Sünden und betet füreinander, damit ihr geheiligt werdet. Viel vermag das inständige Gebet eines Gerechten." (Einheitsübersetzung)

Worüber spricht Jakobus hier? Über die Presbyter (also die Priester), die sowohl deinen Körper wie deine Seele heilen können. Ihnen obliegt dies - ebenso wie die Vergebung der Sünden. Gott vergibt unsere Sünden, und zwar durch die Priester!

(Quelle: www.saintjoe.com)

 

Bibelstellen

Nützliche Bibelstellen über die Barmherzigkeit Gottes und die Bekehrung des Menschen:

Mt 3,1-12; Mk 12,28-34; Lk 7,36-50; Joh 8,1-11

Was sagt das Kirchenrecht zum Thema Ökumene und Sakramentenempfang?

Im  CIC, can. 844 § 2 lesen wir: "Sooft eine Notwendigkeit es erfordert oder ein wirklicher geistlicher Nutzen dazu rät und sofern die Gefahrdes Irrtums oder des Indifferentismus (Gleichgültigkeit) vermieden wird, ist es Gläubigen, denen es physisch oder moralisch unmöglich ist, einen katholischen Spender aufzusuchen, erlaubt, die Sakramente der Buße, der Eucharistie und der Krankensalbung von nichtkatholischen Spendern zu empfangen, in deren Kirche die genannten Sakramente gültig gespendet werden."

Ich gehe nicht mehr zur Beichte, weil ich nicht glaube, dass es eine Hölle gibt!

"Du wirst es glauben, wenn du einmal dort bist!"

(Fr. Bill Casey, der hier Padre Pio zitiert)

 

Warum zum Priester?

"Ist einer von euch krank? Dann rufe er die Ältesten der Gemeinde zu sich; sie sollen Gebete über ihn sprechen und ihn im Namen des Herrn mit Öl salben. Das gläubige Gebet wird den Kranken retten und der Herr wird ihn aufrichten; wenn er Sünden begangen hat, werden sie ihm vergeben. Darum bekennt einander eure Sünden und betet füreinander, damit ihr geheiligt werdet. Viel vermag das inständige Gebet eines Gerechten." (Jk 5,14-16 - Einheitsübersetzung).

Manch einer, der gerne kund tut, er brauche nichts und niemanden zwischen sich und Jesus, mag ob dieser Verse erstaunt sein. Das griechische Wort für "Älteste" ist übrigens das Wort, aus dem das deutsche "Priester" gebildet wurde (Presbyter).

Hier wird noch einmal die herausragende Bedeutung der Priester bei der Sakramentenspendung deutlich - sei es nun bei der Krankensalbung oder der Sündenvergebung / Beichte.

Auch werden wir hier nochmals an die Bedeutung des Gebetes erinnert.

Ein Blick in die Bibel verschafft also oft Klarheit!

Gehen wir weiter zu Jn 20,19-23:

"Am Abend dieses ersten Tages der Woche, als die Jünger aus Furcht vor den Juden die Türen verschlossen hatten, kam Jesus, trat in ihre Mitte und sagte zu ihnen: Friede sei mit euch! Nach diesen Worten zeigte er ihnen seine Hände und seine Seite. Da freuten sich die Jünger, dass sie den Herrn sahen. Jesus sagte noch einmal zu ihnen: Friede sei mit euch! Wie mich der Vater gesandt hat, so sende ich euch. Nachdem er das gesagt hatte, hauchte er sie an und sprach zu ihnen: Empfangt den Heiligen Geist! Wem ihr die Sünden vergebt, dem sind sie vergeben; wem ihr die Vergebung verweigert, dem ist sie verweigert." (Einheitsübersetzung)

Hier waren wohlgemerkt nur die Apostel gegenwärtig. Jesus erscheint das erste Mal nach Seiner Auferstehung und überträgt den Aposteln - und mit ihnen all denen, die in apostolischer Nachfolge nach ihnen kommen - die Macht der Sündenvergebung!

 

Wo steht die Beichte heute?

Jesus hat den Aposteln (und durch die apostolische Sukzession auch ihren Nachfolgern) die Autorität gegeben, zu "binden" und zu "lösen", also Sünden zu vergeben oder die Vergebung (etwa bei mangelnder Reue) zu verweigern.

Damit aber Sünden vergeben werden können, bedarf es erst einmal einer Beichte!

Wenn wir uns eine sonntägliche Messe ansehen, können wir feststellen, dass viele Menschen zur Kommunion gehen, also die Eucharistie empfangen. Mit der Beichte sieht es da allerdings selten so aus. Die meisten derer, die hier das Sakrament empfangen und Leib und Blut Christi in sich aufnehmen, dürften schon länger nicht mehr beichten gewesen sein.

Nun gibt es zwei Möglichkeiten: entweder wir haben hier eine Gemeinde voller Menschen, die sich für die Kanonisation (also die Heiligsprechung) vorbereiten - oder (was wohl wahrscheinlicher sein dürfte) wir haben eine Menge unwürdiger - und damit gotteslästerlicher! - Kommunionsempfänge!

Leider ist es in vielen Pfarreien so, dass die früher üblicherweise meist samstags vor der Abendmesse angebotene Beichte kaum mehr stattfindet. Steht sie doch noch auf den Pfarrbriefen und man geht zu der dort angegebenen Uhrzeit dorthin, findet man nicht selten überraschte Priester vor (zumeist sitzt in den Beichtstühlen niemand und man muss in die Sakristei gehen). Manchmal wird man vom Mesner weggeschickt (man solle doch bitte einen persönlichen Termin vereinbaren), manchmal findet man einen Priester, der sich breit erklärt "wenn es schnell geht", da er noch zu tun habe. Nur selten trifft man tatsächlich Priester an, die auch wirklich zur Beichte zur Verfügung stehen. Woran das liegt? Man kann nur rätseln: mangelnde Nachfrage (was tut man aber dagegen?), Überforderung der Priester und mangelnde Zeit (wirklich?), bei manchen vielleicht auch schlichtweg Bequemlichkeit oder gar Faulheit.

Einmal habe ich einen Termin zur Beichte mit einem Priester vereinbart. Er hat mich auch freundlich begrüßt, meinte dann, er müsse nun die Stola holen, weil der Bischof es wünsche, dass man auch wie ein Priester gekleidet ist, wenn man die Beichte abnimmt (das schien ihm nicht so zu schmecken). Auch während der Beichte erzählte er von seinen Auseinandersetzungen mit dem Bischof. Nun war zwar dieser Priester wirklich wohlwohllend und freundlich, aber ob so eine Beichte vollzogen werden soll, ist fraglich.

Auch scheint den Gläubigen der Wert und die Bedeutung der Beichte kaum mehr vermittelt zu werden.

Manche verteten hier "praktischerweise" die These, man solle doch im Rahmen von Bußgottesdiensten Generalabsolutionen erteilen. Hier aber ist die kirchliche Lehre eindeutig: derartiges muss die absolute Ausnahme bleiben und ist nur unter bestimmten Voraussetzungen erlaubt. Eine dieser Voraussetzung ist es, dass die betreffenden die Beichte in einem persönlichen Gespräch nachholen! Ein Bußgottesdienst ist also keine für alle Beteiligten bequeme Form der Beichte, sondern (wertvoller!) Teil des "Gesamtpaketes".

Hier sind alle Gläubigen zum Nachdenken gerufen: das normale Kirchenvolk wie die Geistlichen. Es geht hier auch nicht darum, wer an der Misere "schuld" ist, sondern was jeder einzelne tun kann, um seinen Teil zur Besserung beizutragen.

(Quelle: u.a. Fr. Bill Casey: Mission for Truth)

 

 

kathpedia.com: Beichte

Die Beichte ist eines der sieben Sakramente der katholischen Kirche. Sie wird auch Sakrament der Vergebung, der Buße, der Versöhnung genannt.
In der Beichte vergibt Jesus Christus dem Pönitenten (Büßer) seine Sünden durch die Worte des Priesters. Nur ein geweihter Priester, der auch rechtlich dazu befähigt ist (Beichtjurisdiktion), hat die Vollmacht, das Beichtsakrament zu spenden (Beichtvater).

Sündenvergebung


Voraussetzung für die Sündenvergebung in der Beichte sind:

- Reue aus übernatürlichen Motiven (aus Furcht vor göttlicher Strafe bzw. aus Liebe)
- Bekenntnis der Sünden
- Bußakt/Wiedergutmachung (nach Maßgabe des Beichtvaters)


In der Beichte sind alle schweren Sünden (einschließlich der Zahl und der erschwerenden Umstände) zu bekennen, deren man sich nach sorgfältiger Gewissenserforschung reumütig bewusst ist. Im Interesse der geistlichen Entwicklung des Gläubigen ist es angeraten, auch lässliche Sünden zu bekennen. Schwere Sünden können nur in der Beichte sakramental vergeben werden, lässliche auch außerhalb, so durch gute Werke und besonders durch den würdigen Empfang der Hl. Kommunion.

In der Kirchengeschichte hat sich das Bewusstsein davon, dass der rückfällige Getaufte beichten darf, also eine sakramental wirksame Wiederherstellung der Taufgnade (notfalls täglich!) überhaupt möglich ist, allmählich durchgesetzt. Im Prinzip war die Volmacht der Kirche zur Sündenvergebung aber schon im Evangelium fest enthalten.

 

Sakramentaler Zusammenhang


Denn die "Aufzählung" aus dem Credo: Ich glaube an den Heiligen Geist, die Heilige katholische Kirche, Gemeinschaft der Heiligen, Vergebung der Sünden, Auferstehung des Fleisches und das ewige Leben" meint verschiedene Aspekte desselben Geheimnisses. Heiliger Geist, Kirche, Taufe, Buße, Gemeinschaft und ewiges Leben sind die Botschaft Christi. Der Empfang der Beichte steht theologisch also auch in engem Zusammenhang mit dem Empfang der Eucharistie. (Der Empfang der Kommunion im Zustand der schweren Sünde ist unwürdig und stellt selbst eine schwere Sünde dar. Aus diesem Grund sind wiederverheiratete Geschiedene so lange vom Empfang der Eucharistie ausgeschlossen, als sie objektiv in schwerer Sünde (Ehebruch) leben.)

"Die Wiederversöhnung im Sakrament der Buße, das den Weg zum Sakrament der Eucharistie öffnet, kann nur denen gewährt werden, welche die Verletzung des Zeichens des Bundes mit Christus und der Treue zu ihm bereut und die aufrichtige Bereitschaft zu einem Leben haben, das nicht mehr im Widerspruch zur Unauflöslichkeit der Ehe steht. Das heißt konkret, dass, wenn die beiden Partner aus ernsthaften Gründen - zum Beispiel wegen der Erziehung der Kinder - der Verpflichtung zur Trennung nicht nachkommen können, 'sie sich verpflichten, völlig enthaltsam zu leben, das heißt, sich der Akte zu enthalten, welche Eheleuten vorbehalten sind'." (Johannes Paul II., Familiaris consortio, Nr. 84)

 

Sündenfolgen und Buße


Durch den Empfang der Beichte sind zwar die Sünden des Menschen vergeben, nicht jedoch alle Sündenstrafen - also die Auswirkungen der Sünde. Diese Strafen können durch Gebet, gute Werke, Teilnahme an der Hl. Messe, Wallfahrten, Almosen und Ähnliches getilgt werden. Die Kirche gewährt für manche diese "Tätigkeiten" einen Ablass, was die teilweise (Teilablass) oder vollständige (vollkommener Ablass) Wegnahme der zeitlichen (diesseitigen) Sündenstrafen mit günstiger Wirkung auch für das Purgatorium bedeutet.

Zur Vorbereitung auf die Beichte empfiehlt die römisch-katholische Kirche den Gewissensspiegel.

 

Literatur


Raphael Nießner, Meine Frühkommunion, Anleitung für die Eltern zur Beichte und Kommunion, Verlagsbuchhandlung der Benediktiner, Abteilung Katechse, D-93352 Rohr i. NB, Tel.                08783/9600-0         (Mit dem Apostolischem Segen Johannes Paul II.
Beichtbüchlein für Kinder / Beichthilfe für Erwachsen (kostenlos, DIN A 6, Mit kirchlicher Druckerlaubnis) [1]
Ferdinand Holböck, Wunder der Bekehrung, Weto Verlag, Meersburg 1984, ISBN 3-923673-05-1
Pur spezial "Vom Sinn der Beichte" (Katholisches Themenheft - 20 Seiten, DIN A 5) Fe-Medienverlag
Ulrich Filler, Zerbrochene Herzen heilen, Neue Zugänge zur Beichte
siehe auch: Sacrosancta oecumenica (3), Beichtjurisdiktion

 

Päpstliche Schreiben


12. Februar 1997 Päpstlicher Rat für die Familie, Vademecum für Beichtväter zu einigen Fragen der Ehemoral.

(Quelle: http://www.kathpedia.com/index.php?title=Beichte)

 

Was sagen die bayerischen Kapuziner zum Thema Beichte?

Buße und Vergebung

Die Geschichte des Menschen soll eine Heilsgeschichte sein, nicht eine Unheilsgeschichte. Dafür hat Gott alles getan, was er tun konnte. Das Kreuz ist ein unübersehbares Zeichen seines Tuns für die Menschen. Wir sind getauft, damit hat unser Weg in die Vollendung begonnen. Der Mensch in der Gemeinschaft mit Gott, das ist Heil.

Niemand kann aber bestreiten, dass Unheil in der Welt geschieht. Die Geschichte des Menschen kann immer wieder zur Unheilsgeschichte werden in dieser Zeit. Der Mensch kann sich von Gott entfernen, ja ganz von ihm trennen. Dann entsteht eine unheilvolle, eine "sündige" Situation. Sünde ist Absonderung von Gott, ist Unheil. Das kann absolut tödlich sein. Und das ist nicht nur eine Sache, die den einzelnen Menschen betrifft. Sünde schafft Unheil auch zwischen den Menschen. Wir erleben das täglich.

Der Mensch kann den Weg in die Vollendung verlassen. Er kann andere, falsche Wege gehen, die zur ausweglosen Sackgasse werden können. Was dann?

"Wenn wir sagen, dass wir keine Sünde haben, führen wir uns selbst in die Irre, und die Wahrheit ist nicht in uns. Wenn wir unsere Sünden bekennen, ist er treu und gerecht; er vergibt uns die Sünden und reinigt uns von allem Unrecht." (1 Joh 1, 8-9)

Vom Unheil ist immer wieder ein Weg zurück ins Heil möglich. Gott hat nicht nur einmal etwas für die Menschen getan. Gott tut immer wieder etwas für den Menschen. Er schenkt Vergebung. Er bindet ihn wieder an sich. Gott will nicht den Tod des Sünders, sondern dass er sich bekehrt und lebt.

Auch der Mensch muss etwas tun. Er muss umkehren und sich von neuem Gott nähern, zu ihm gehen. Umkehr ist ein ganz entscheidendes Wort in unserem Leben, eine lebensentscheidende Notwendigkeit. Umkehr ist nicht Rückschritt, sondern Fortschritt. In einer Sackgasse gibt es nur einen Weiterweg durch Umkehr.

Ein Mensch kehrt um. Er bekennt seine Schuld. Er steht zu seinem Versagen. Er bittet Gott um Vergebung. Ein Mensch kehrt um, er tut Buße. Er will neu beginnen. Er will gutmachen, soweit es möglich ist, wo er Schaden angerichtet hat. Er will nach der Ordnung Gottes leben. Buße tun, das heißt mit Engagement neu den Weg des Heiles gehen, auf Gott zugehen, mit ihm gehen. Dieser Neubeginn ist möglich, weil Christus uns von der Macht des Bösen befreit hat. Immer wieder ist ein Weg aus der Sünde heraus möglich. Buße tun macht sichtbar und erfahrbar, dass der Mensch aus der sündigen Situation heraus will.

Buße tun, das heißt auch von neuem auf die Menschen zugehen, mit ihnen gehen. Buße tun ist nicht nur eine Notwendigkeit des einzelnen, es ist auch eine der Gemeinschaft. Christen tun miteinander Buße. Sie ringen um einen Lebensstil, der dem Evangelium entspricht. Es ist der fortwährende Versuch, so gesinnt zu sein wie Jesus Christus, der Versuch, auf dem Weg des Heiles voranzuschreiten.

Das Leben ist überaus vielfältig, darum können wir auf vielfache Weise Buße tun und Vergebung erfahren. Dazu möchten Ihnen diese Internetseiten Hilfe und Anregung sein.


Allgemeine Formen der Sündenvergebung

Jesus führt die bereits von den Rabbinen gelehrte Überzeugung weiter, dass Fasten, Beten und Almosengeben als Formen der Buße das Leben vor Gott fördern und der Versöhnung mit Gott und den Mitmenschen dienen (vgl. Mt 6,1-18). Die Überlieferung des Herrn wird im 1. Petrusbrief so zusammengefasst: "Vor allem haltet fest an der Liebe zueinander, denn sie deckt viele Sünden zu." (1 Petr 4,8)

Fasten

Das Fasten ist eine Übung, die Leib und Seele erneuert und uns Gott näherbringt. Weniger Konsum, weniger Vergnügen (Tanz, Rauchen, Alkohol) lassen uns unabhängiger und freier werden. Alles, was wir zuviel haben,macht uns hart gegenüber den anderen und verwischt die Grenzen, die wir brauchen, um nicht maßlos und ungerecht zu werden. Wir können nicht mehr teilen und uns nicht mehr mitteilen. Wir verlieren den Bezug zum Nächsten und zu Gott.

Beten

"Zur Buße beten Sie…", sagt der Beichtvater und will damit dem Beichtenden nicht vortäuschen: Mit dem Gebet ist die Sache erledigt. Er will vielmehr dem Christen das Gebet als wichtigen Weg der Buße empfehlen. Das Gebet soll die Umkehr vertiefen und dazu helfen, mit Gott und den Mitmenschen versöhnt zu leben. Im Gebet empfangen wir Vergebung, erhalten wir neue Impulse, uns zu wandeln und werden wir gestärkt, mit unseren alltäglichen Fehlern zu leben, ohne abzustumpfen. Was wir "in der Kammer" (vgl. Mt 6,6) erbitten, gewährt uns der Vater, der ins Verborgene sieht. Wenn wir wie der Zöllner "am Eingang des Tempels" an die Brust schlagen mit dem Bekenntnis auf den Lippen: "Gott sei mir Sünder gnädig" (vgl. Lk 18, 9-14), dürfen wir gewiss sein, von Gott angenommen zu werden.

Das Gebet hilft, das eigene Leben und das Zusammenleben mit den anderen besser zu bewältigen. Besonders erfahren diese Wirkung Kranke und von schweren Schicksalsschlägen Heimgesuchte, die ihr unverschuldetes Leid annehmen lernten. Wie wäre sonst die Aussage eines Schwerkranken zu verstehen, der sich im Blick auf das Kreuz zu dem Bekenntnis durchgerungen hat: "Weil Du, Herr, für mich mitträgst, kann ich meine Schmerzen ertragen." Das meint wohl auch der Apostel Paulus, wenn er sagt: "Immer tragen wir das Todesleiden Jesu an unserem Leib"(2 Kor 4,10) und ergänzen, "was an den Leiden Christi noch fehlt" (Kol 1,24).

Almosen

Almosen geben heißt helfen, ohne Lohn zu erwarten; geben, ohne wieder haben zu wollen; die linke Hand weiß nicht, was die rechte tut (vgl. Mt. 6,3).

Almosen, Geld geben, macht uns freier und bringt uns dem anderen näher. Almosen geben, dem Nächsten Gutes tun heißt auch, von der eigenen kostbaren Zeit dem anderen etwas schenken, dem Menschen neben mir zuhören; das Leid des anderen sehen, es mittragen und ihm praktisch helfen.

Almosen geben heißt auch, ein gutes Gespräch versuchen, Freude verbreiten; Geduld haben mit Kindern und Jugendlichen, dem Ehepartner, dem Freund.

Almosen geben heißt auch, von meinem Glauben mitteilen und dadurch andere stärken; Hoffnung schenken, Jesus näherbringen; Liebe geben, zurückstehen und warten können. All das kostet Zeit, Zeit, die bei Gott nicht verloren ist.


Versöhnung in der Familie

Was können wir in der Familie tun? Wir können in der Familie einüben, wie wir andere und Gott um Vergebung bitten, aber auch zeigen, wie wir selbst vergeben.

Wir können beispielsweise am Abend vor dem Schlafengehen miteinander besprechen: Wo haben wir uns gegenseitig wehgetan, wo haben wir es an Liebe fehlen lassen?

Wir können in der Familie aufmerksam nach Gelegenheiten suchen, wo wir uns offen sagen können, was uns am anderen gefällt oder nicht gefällt.

Wir können als Eltern die Kinder spüren lassen, dass wir uns selber immer wieder vergeben müssen.

Wir können durch Erzählungen und Vorlesen aus der Heiligen Schrift erfahrbar machen, wie Gott dem Menschen immer wieder vergibt.

Wir können im gemeinsamen Gebet Gott unser Versagen eingestehen und ihn um Verzeihung bitten.


Zeichen und Gesten der Versöhnung

Die Bereitschaft zum Verzeihen und zur Versöhnung in der Familie soll auch in äußeren Zeichen und Gesten zwischen den Ehepartnern, Eltern und Kindern und zwischen den Kindern zum Ausdruck kommen: die ausgestreckte Hand zum Frieden, der herzhafte Händedruck, die Umarmung, der Kuss, das kleine Geschenk, ein Blumenstrauß, eine Spruchkarte, einige handgeschriebene Zeilen, die Einladung zur Tasse Kaffee oder das Angebot, eine Arbeit jetzt gemeinsam zu tun. Jeder in der Familie kann dies in der Form ausdrücken, die ihm und seinen Möglichkeiten entspricht. Nicht jede Familie kann alles, aber jede kann etwas verwirklichen. Die Worte und Zeichen machen uns deutlich:

Wir sind angewiesen auf Vergebung, wir bitten um Vergebung, wir sind bereit zu vergeben, wir leiden unter dem Unfrieden, unter der gestörten Beziehung, wir wollen gemeinsam neu beginnen.


Die liturgischen Formen der Sündenvergebung

Sünde ist nie nur Privatsache, nie nur eine Sache, die allein zwischen dem Menschen und Gott abzumachen wäre; denn kein Mensch kann so isoliert leben, dass er nicht wenigstens geistig in die menschliche Gesellschaft eingebunden bliebe. Wir wissen heute, böse, hasserfüllte Gedanken sind Mächte, sind "Strahlungen", die sich negativ auf die Mitmenschen auswirken. Das gilt in besonderer Weise für die Christen, da sie Glieder am Leib Christi sind (vgl. 1 Kor 12,12-27). Ein krankes Körperorgan zieht immer den ganzen Leib in Mitleidenschaft. So wird verständlich, warum Buße und Vergebung einen besonderen Ort in den gottesdienstlichen Versammlungen der Christen haben, vor allem in der Feier der Eucharistie oder in einem eigenen, zu diesem Zweck gefeierten Gottesdienst (Bußgottesdienst). Die wichtigste liturgische Form der Sündenvergebung ist das Bußsakrament. In der sakramentalen Versöhnungsfeier (Beichte) spricht Jesus unmittelbar den einzelnen an, wie er es einst beim Gelähmten im Hause von Kafarnaum getan hat: "Deine Sünden sind dir vergeben" (Mk 2,5). Eine solche persönliche Begegnung mit Christus kommt unserer menschlichen Natur sehr entgegen; denn sie schenkt uns das sichere Bewusstsein, von Gott, der die Liebe ist, auch in unserer Sündhaftigkeit angenommen zu sein. So sehr dieser Vorgang im Raum des Beichtgeheimnisses bleibt, ist er doch nicht "privat", sondern "öffentlich", da der Priester stellvertretend für die Kirche handelt.

Buße und Vergebung in der Eucharistiefeier

Das allgemeine Schuldbekenntnis am Anfang der Messfeier nimmt in den Worten "ich bekenne... allen Brüdern und Schwestern, dass ich Gutes unterlassen und Böses getan habe" die soziale Seite der Sünde ernst. Jeder wendet sich an jeden und bittet, für ihn vor Gott einzutreten: "Darum bitte ich euch, Brüder und Schwestern, für mich zu beten bei Gott, unserem Herrn." Auch das Hören des Wortes Gottes hat sündentilgende Kraft. So spricht der Priester nach dem Evangelium: "Herr, durch dein Evangelium nimm hinweg unsere Sünden." Damit wir am Mahl des Herrn nicht unbußfertig teilnehmen, wird im "Vater unser" noch einmal die Bitte um Vergebung ausgesprochen und die Bereitschaft, selbst zu vergeben, bekundet: "Vergib uns unsere Schuld, wie auch wir vergeben unsern Schuldigern." Vielfach werden diese Worte durch ein sichtbares Zeichen der Zuwendung und Versöhnung, den Friedensgruß, unterstrichen. Und dann bekräftigen wir unser Vertrauen auf die vergebende Güte des Herrn mit dem Ruf: "Lamm Gottes, du nimmst hinweg die Sünde der Welt" und mit dem Gebet "Herr, ich bin nicht würdig, dass du eingehst unter mein Dach, aber sprich nur ein Wort, so wird meine Seele gesund."

Der Bußgottesdienst

Der Bußgottesdienst vertieft und entfaltet den Vorgang von Buße und Vergebung. Er macht deutlich, dass die Umkehr und die Hinwendung zu Gott nicht nur für den einzelnen, sondern auch für die Gemeinschaft notwendig sind, weil auch die Gemeinschaft dem Mitmenschen gegenüber oft versagt. Im Bußgottesdienst empfangen wir Anleitung zu einer vertieften Gewissenserforschung. Nicht selten entdecken wir dabei Lebensbereiche, die wir vielleicht noch nie mit Gott und seiner Ordnung in Beziehung gebracht haben. Im Bußgottesdienst hören wir die Worte Jesu, durch die wir gleichsam aus "erster Hand" die Botschaft vom verzeihenden Vater im Himmel vernehmen. "Im Himmel wird mehr Freude herrschen über einen einzigen Sünder, der umkehrt, als über neunundneunzig Gerechte, die es nicht nötig haben umzukehren" (Lk 15,7). Besonders zu den Bußzeiten des Kirchenjahres, im Advent und in der Fastenzeit, hat der Bußgottesdienst seinen festen Platz im Leben der Pfarrgemeinde.

Die Feier des Bußsakramentes (Beichte)

"Unter den liturgischen Formen der Buße und Sündenvergebung nimmt das Bußsakrament eine hervorragende Stellung ein. Im Auftrag der Kirche wird dem, der umkehrt, durch den Priester in der Vollmacht Christi im wahrnehmbaren Zeichen Versöhnung geschenkt. Für die Gläubigen, die sich in schwerer Sünde von Gott getrennt haben, bleiben das persönliche Bekenntnis und die persönliche Lossprechung die einzige ordentliche Weise, in der Kirche Versöhnung mit Gott zu finden. Aber auch denen, die sich keiner schweren Sünde bewusst sind, empfiehlt die Kirche, in Zeitabständen, in denen das eigene Leben noch überschaubar ist, das Bußsakrament zu empfangen. Darin kommt zum Ausdruck, dass jeder Gläubige immer neu der Vergebung und der Hilfe bedarf, die ihm im Bußsakrament geschenkt wird." (Synodenbeschluss)

Wer heute zur Beichte geht - ob in den Beichtstuhl oder in ein Beichtzimmer -, wird feststellen: Der Ritus des Sakramentes ist gegenüber früher in mancher Hinsicht verändert. Die deutsche Sprache, neue Gebete und Zeichen - manche davon als Vorschlag angeboten - machen die Beichte verständlicher und persönlicher.

Der Priester begrüßt zunächst den Beichtenden und lädt ihn gegebenenfalls nach dem Kreuzzeichen durch ein paar freundliche Worte zum Bekenntnis ein. Das Bekenntnis soll ehrlich und persönlich sein. Eine Hilfe dazu ist, wenn der Beichtende von seiner Situation und seiner Schuld erzählt. So werden für den Beichtenden und für den Priester auch Hintergrunde und Ursachen für die Sünden und Fehler eher offenbar. Wenn nötig, hilft der Priester beim Bekenntnis.

Der Priester kann wahrend der Lossprechungsworte seine Hände (oder seine Hand) über den Beichtenden ausbreiten - ähnlich dem feierlichen Schlusssegen bei der Messe. In den Lossprechungsworten wird deutlich, dass der Priester im Namen und im Dienst der Kirche, also im Namen der größeren, glaubenden Gemeinschaft handelt.

Die Beichte führt zur Erneuerung und Vertiefung der Gemeinschaft mit Gott. Seine Vergebung, seinen Trost und sein Aufrichten erfährt der Beichtende als große Lebenshilfe. Im Gebet und im Lobpreis dankt er Gott dafür.


Erfahrungen mit der Einzelbeichte

Ein persönliches Zeugnis. Drei positive Erfahrungen möchte ich aufzählen, die ich mit der Beichte gemacht habe.

Die erste Erfahrung ist die Hilfe des Rhythmus. Ich gehöre auch zu jenen Menschen, die jahrelang entweder gar nicht oder nur sporadisch - zu Weihnachten und Ostern oder ähnlichen Anlässen -gebeichtet haben. Nachdem mir dieser disziplinlose und rein den Stimmungen ausgelieferte Zustand immer unerträglicher wurde, versuche ich jetzt, in einem Rhythmus von sechs bis acht Wochen, mit Terminabsprache, Vor- und Nachbereitung zu beichten. Wenn auch damit kein Problem verschwindet oder gelöst ist, so erfahre ich doch diesen Rhythmus als Stütze und Hilfe, um nicht ausschließlich der Stimmung unterworfen zu sein, ob ich beichten mag oder nicht (Diese Stimmung bleibt sowieso stark genug!).

Eine zweite wichtige Erfahrung ist für mich, dass mir der Vorgang der Reue etwas klarer geworden ist. Tränen und Gefühle der Reue - geboren meist aus der Enttäuschung über sich selbst - sind direkt im Anschluss an ein großes Versagen möglich und wirklich. Bei der Beichtvorbereitung habe ich die Reue neu entdeckt als diesen einfachen, etwas länger verweilenden Blick auf die Person Jesu Christi; also als bewusste Hinwendung und Umkehr zu ihm. Natürlich ist dabei das Schauen auf ein Kreuz besonders beeindruckend. Die Reue ist bei mir jetzt zwar auch nicht "gefühllos", aber sie ist keine Stimmungssache, sondern ein Akt der Zuwendung zu Jesus.

Schließlich gibt es für mich - und das ist die dritte positive Erfahrung mit der Beichte - wirklich das Gefühl der Befreiung. Gerade wenn Abhängigkeiten, Triebe und Angstzustände, verbunden mit dem Gefühl "es ändert sich ja doch nichts, es bleibt alles beim alten" besonders bedrohend werden, erlebe ich die Beichte als Ereignis, nach dem ich befreit durch die Straßen der Stadt gehe, innerlich leicht voll neuen Mutes, aktiv Kinder, Familie und Alltagsanforderungen mit mehr Ruhe und Gelassenheit angehend. Vergebung ist für mich wirklich jedes Mal ein neuer Beginn. Gott sei Dank, dass er möglich ist!


13 Fragen und 13 Antworten
von Kaplan Ulrich Filler
Siehe auch: http://www.beichten.info/

1. Ich kann doch selbst Gott um Verzeihung bitten. Warum brauche ich dazu einen Priester?

Natürlich kann man Gott im Gebet um die Verzeihung der Schuld bitten. Das soll man sogar häufig tun! Das aber ersetzt die Beichte nicht. Die Beichte ist ein Geschenk Jesu an uns. Warum wollen wir dieses Geschenk nicht annehmen? Wenn wir ehrlich sind, ist das doch oft nur eine faule Ausrede, um die unangenehme Beichte herumzukommen. Oder wann haben Sie das letzte Mal wirklich im Gebet die Sünden bereut? Ohne die Beichte wissen wir nicht mit Sicherheit, ob Gott uns auch die Schuld vergibt. Diese Sicherheit haben wir aber nach einer guten Beichte. Außerdem ist meine Schuld nicht nur eine Sache zwischen mir und Gott. Ich bin auch vor anderen Menschen schuldig geworden - auch vor der Gemeinschaft der Kirche, zu der ich gehöre. Durch die Beichte wird auch mein Verhältnis zur Gemeinschaft der Kirche wieder in Ordnung gebracht.


2. Ich weiß nicht, was ich beichten soll. Ich habe keine schlimmen Sachen gemacht!

"Wenn wir sagen, dass wir keine Sünde haben, führen wir uns selbst in die Irre, und die Wahrheit ist nicht in uns. Wenn wir unsere Sünden bekennen, ist er treu und gerecht; er vergibt uns die Sünden und reinigt uns von allem Unrecht. Wenn wir sagen, dass wir nicht gesündigt haben, machen wir ihn zum Lügner, und sein Wort ist nicht in uns. Meine Kinder, ich schreibe euch dies, damit ihr nicht sündigt. Wenn aber einer sündigt, haben wir einen Beistand beim Vater: Jesus Christus, den Gerechten." (1 Joh 1,8-2,1) Wem keine Sünde einfällt, der hat vielleicht nicht gut genug darüber nachgedacht! Nach einer vernünftigen Gewissenserforschung (z. B. im Gotteslob Nr. 62ff.) sieht die Sache schon ganz anders aus! Oder beten Sie jeden Tag? Können Sie ehrlichen Herzens sagen, dass Sie wirklich versuchen, Gott zu lieben und Christus zu folgen? Sind Sie nie lieblos, gemein, unehrlich, schadenfroh? Nie eine "kleine Lüge"? Sind Sie niemals zornig, ungeduldig, unmäßig? Sünden sind nicht nur Mord und Totschlag. Sünden sind bei uns viel öfter auch bestimmte Denkarten, Gewohnheiten oder Charakterschwächen, an denen wir arbeiten müssen.


3. Ich habe schon mal ganz schlechte Erfahrungen mit der Beichte gemacht!

Das ist schade. Aber es ist die absolute Ausnahme, dass sich ein Priester im Beichtstuhl wirklich einmal im Ton vergreift. Selbst schlechte Erfahrungen sollten uns aber nicht daran hindern, einen anderen Priester aufzusuchen und gute Erfahrungen zu machen! Geben wir Christus eine Chance!


4. Die anderen gehen auch alle nicht beichten!

Na und? Nur weil es die Mehrheit ist, handelt sie dadurch nicht automatisch richtig! Nur tote Fische schwimmen mit dem Strom! Außerdem - seien Sie ehrlich - das Argument: "Alle anderen machen es aber so..." ist doch eine faule Ausrede für die eigene Feigheit oder Bequemlichkeit!


5. Ich weiß gar nicht mehr, wie das geht!

Wo ein Wille ist, da ist auch ein Weg. Ohne große Mühe kann man sich darüber informieren, wie die Beichte abläuft und wie man sich vorbereitet (z. B. im Gotteslob Nr. 58 - 66). Übrigens kann man auch jemanden fragen, der sich damit auskennt - z. B. den Kaplan oder den Pfarrer. Notfalls kann man auch zur Beichte gehen und sagen: "Ich möchte gerne beichten, aber ich weiß nicht genau wie das geht und was ich sagen soll." Nur Mut! Der Priester wird niemanden auslachen, sondern im Gegenteil Respekt vor Ihrem Mut haben!


6. Ich habe schon seit vielen Jahren nicht mehr gebeichtet!

Das ist doch erst recht ein Grund, wieder mit der Beichte anzufangen! Man freut sich doch auch darüber, wenn man nach vielen Jahren etwas von einem guten Freund hört, von dem man schon geglaubt hat, man hätte ihn verloren! Und dann will man nicht nur ein kleines Gespräch - man will die Freundschaft fortsetzen! Christus wartet sehnsüchtig auf uns in seinem Sakrament der Versöhnung! Übrigens sind wir verpflichtet, mindestens einmal im Jahr (und zwar möglichst in der österlichen Zeit) zu beichten. Das gleiche Gebot verpflichtet uns auch, mindestens einmal im Jahr das Sakrament der Eucharistie zu empfangen (d.h. zur Kommunion zu gehen). Ist es nicht merkwürdig, dass heute alle in jeder Messe die hl. Kommunion empfangen, oftmals ohne sich zu fragen: Bin ich eigentlich für diese intensive Christusbegegnung vorbereitet? Wer regelmäßig zur Kommunion geht, sollte auch regelmäßig beichten!


7. Die Beichte nutzt nichts. Ich habe schon oft gebeichtet, aber ich habe mich gar nicht gebessert.

Wenn man glaubt, nach einer Beichte mit Heiligenschein durch die Gegend zu wandeln, hat man sich getäuscht! Es braucht viele, viele kleine Schritte auf dem Weg zu Gott hin. Aber jede Beichte - so nutzlos sie uns auch erscheinen - mag, so wenig wir uns doch zu ändern scheinen - ist ein wunderbares Geschenk. Man weiß ja nicht, was man ohne diese kleinen Schritte für ein Mensch wäre! Und hier gilt: Verlieren Sie niemals den Mut! Und wenn Sie immer und immer wieder denselben Fehler, dieselbe Sünde beichten müssen - tun Sie es ruhig. Wenn nötig, jede Woche. Immer wieder. Christus freut sich immer, wenn wir kommen.

"Wir werden nicht auf einmal, durch eine einzige Beichte zu Heiligen. Wir müssen mit uns selbst Geduld haben, wie auch Gott Geduld hat. Aber jede gute Beichte ist ein Schritt nach vorn auf dem Weg zu Gott. Vergessen wir niemals: Was im Gericht der Barmherzigkeit gerichtet wird, kommt nicht mehr vor das Endgericht." (Rudolf Graber)


8. Ich kenne den Pfarrer/Kaplan ganz gut und sie kennen mich auch persönlich. Zu denen möchte ich nicht gehen.

Muss man ja auch nicht. In anderen Pfarrgemeinden, in großen Kirchen oder an Wallfahrtsorten (z. B. Altötting) kann man völlig anonym beichten. Übrigens zeigt die Erfahrung, dass durch die Beichte persönliche Beziehungen keine Belastung erfahren. Auf jeden Fall hat es viele Vorteile, wenn man einen festen Beichtvater hat, der uns regelmäßig auf unserem Weg begleitet.


9. Es ist mir peinlich, beichten zu gehen.

Wem nicht? Na klar - es ist niemals angenehm, seine Sünden zu bekennen, sein Herz ganz zu öffnen. Wir sehen dann nämlich gar nicht mehr so toll und strahlend aus, wie wir uns selbst gerne sehen und wie wir uns wünschen, dass die anderen uns sehen. Wer den Mut hat, seine Sünden zu bekennen, zeigt, dass er es ernst meint mit der Umkehr. Und jeder Priester hat Hochachtung vor jedem, der zur Beichte kommt, ganz egal, welche Sünden er bekennt.


10. Ich habe so schlimme Sünden begangen, die kann ich gar nicht beichten.

Wer sich selbst für den schlimmsten Sünder auf Erden hält, ist ganz schön hochmütig eingestellt, oder? Wenn wir beichten gehen, dann sind wir (meistens) weder die schlimmsten Sünder noch die besten Menschen. Wir sind meistens nur ganz gewöhnliche, mittelmäßige Sünder. Das ist nicht schlimm, solange wir versuchen, keine mittelmäßigen Christen zu sein. Ein alter Pfarrer sagte vor vielen Jahren, er würde demjenigen 50,-- € schenken, der ihm eine Sünde beichtet, die er noch nie gehört hat. Er hat das Geld noch heute...

Von einem Heiligen stammt der Satz: Es ist nicht so schlimm, dass der Mensch sündigt, denn der Mensch ist schwach und die Versuchung ist groß. Schlimm ist, dass der Mensch jederzeit die Möglichkeit der Umkehr hat und sie nicht nutzt!


11. Ich gehe nicht gerne in den dunklen Beichtstuhl.

Kein Problem. Fragen Sie den Priester nach der Möglichkeit des Beichtgesprächs.


12. Was ist eigentlich ein Beichtgespräch?

Wie der Name schon sagt, ist es eine Beichte in der Form eines Gesprächs mit dem Priester. Man hat die Möglichkeit, ausführlicher über das eigene Leben und die eigene Schuld zu sprechen. Ein Beichtgespräch empfiehlt sich, wenn man längere Zeit nicht gebeichtet hat; sich unsicher ist, wie man richtig beichtet; eine Lebensbeichte (s.u.) ablegen möchte oder nicht gerne in den Beichtstuhl geht


13. Was ist eigentlich eine Lebensbeichte?

Als Lebensbeichte bezeichnet man eine Beichte (Beichtgespräch), die man vor entscheidenden Situationen im Leben ablegt (z. B. vor der Firmung, vor der Hochzeit, vor einer langen Reise, vor einer Operation usw.). Man möchte sein ganzes bisheriges Leben noch einmal vor Christus hintragen, sich von Ihm umarmen lassen und seine Liebe, seine Gnade und seine Vergebung erfahren.



Hinführung zur persönlichen Gewissenserforschung

Das Zusammenleben mit unseren Nächsten in der Familie, im Freundes- und Bekanntenkreis, in der Schule, am Arbeitsplatz, in der kirchlichen und politischen Gemeinde lässt uns nüchtern und klar erkennen und erfahren:

"Ich bin nicht immer in Ordnung; ich bin nicht immer gut."

Weil das so ist, und wir immer wieder vor Gott und den Menschen schuldig werden, brauchen wir die Erfahrung, wieder angenommen und geliebt zu sein, brauchen wir die Verzeihung und Versöhnung mit Gott und den Menschen.

Unsere Sehnsucht nach geheilten Beziehungen, nach geheilten Wunden und Verletzungen lässt uns umkehren und rufen und beten:

"Führe mich heraus aus dem Kerker, damit ich deinen Namen preise." führe mich heraus aus dem Kerker meiner Gott-ferne, meiner Angst und meines Misstrauens, meiner Ich-Bezogenheit, meines Eigensinns und meiner Eitelkeit, meines Stolzes und mei-ner Oberflächlichkeit, meiner Blindheit und meiner Sprachlosigkeit. Aus meinem Kerker - aus meinen Fesseln - will der HERR mich befreien. ER will mit mir sein - auch dann, wenn ich nicht in Ordnung, nicht gut bin. ER will mich heilen; ER will mir seinen Trost, seine Barmherzigkeit und seine Liebe im Sakrament der Buße schenken.


Gewissensspiegel

(Ein Vorschlag zur persönlichen Gewissenserforschung nach den 10-Geboten Gottes)

Ich bin der Herr, dein Gott - du sollst keine anderen Götter neben mir haben.
Gott möchte der Herr meines Lebens sein.
Wie viel Zeit nehme ich mir für ihn? Für das Gebet? Für die Bibellesung? Wie oft denke ich an ihn? Wie groß sind mein Vertrauen und mei-ne Hoffnung auf ihn? Warum ist mir vieles an-dere wichtiger als Gott?

Du sollst den Namen Gottes nicht verunehren.
Wir können nicht groß genug von Gott denken und sprechen. Habe ich Ehrfurcht vor Gott? Ist das auch in meinem Reden und Denken über Religiöses spürbar? Welchen tieferen Grund könnte meine fehlende Ehrfurcht haben?

Gedenke, dass du den Sabbat heiligst.
Der Sonntag ist der Tag des Herrn. Ich bin eingeladen zum Gottesdienst der Pfarrgemeinde, ich bin aufgerufen, diesen Tag für die Gemein-schaft (Familie, Pfarrgemeinde) zu gestalten. Gehe ich am Sonntag zum Gottesdienst? Wel-che Beziehung habe ich zu meiner Pfarrgemeinde? Wirkt sich der Gottesdienst in meinem Leben aus? Warum misslingt mir manchmal die Sonntagsgestaltung?

Du sollst Vater und Mutter ehren.
Gott hat mir Vater und Mutter geschenkt. Er stellt mir die Aufgabe, ihnen dankbar zu sein und sie nicht zu vergessen. Wie ist das Verhältnis zu meinen Eltern? Wie viel Zeit und Sorge schenke ich ihnen? Aus welchen Motiven? Wie verhalte ich mich ge-genüber denen, für die ich Verantwortung trage, vor allem gegenüber Kindern und Jugendlichen?

Du sollst nicht töten.
Nach dem Willen Gottes soll ich mich und ande-re Menschen nicht zerstören oder schädigen, sondern aufbauen, lieben und helfen, dass Ver-söhnung geschieht. Wer sind meine "Nächsten"? Bin ich hilfsbereit? Bereit zum Verzeihen und Trösten? Schenke ich den anderen Fürsorge, Liebe und Anerkennung? Warum habe ich Angst vor neuen Begegnungen und drücke mich vor sozialem Engagement?

Du sollst nicht ehebrechen.
Gott schützt die lebenslange Beziehung zwischen Mann und Frau in der Ehe. Wie ist meine Einstellung zur eigenen, zur fremden Ehe? Wie ist mein eheliches, wie mein vor- oder außereheliches Verhalten? Welches Verhältnis habe ich zu meinem eige-nen Körper? Warum rede ich so über die Geschlechtlichkeit?

Du sollst nicht stehlen.
Gott ruft mich, das Eigentum des Nächsten zu respektieren und meinen eigenen Besitz zu teilen. Wie gehe ich mit dem Eigentum anderer um? Bin ich dankbar für das, was ich habe? Nutze ich meine Fähigkeiten, meine Arbeit und meinen Besitz verantwortungsbewusst? Welche Rolle spielt das Geld in meinem Leben? Was bedeutet mir Armut?

Du sollst nicht lügen.
Gott will, dass ich weder mir noch anderen durch mein Reden schade. Wie ist meine Sprache? Kann sich der andere auf mein Wort verlassen? Wo und aus welchen Motiven heraus belüge ich die anderen und mich selbst?


Reuegebete
Für Erwachsene

Gott, himmlischer Vater, ich habe gesündigt; ich kann meine Sünde nicht ungeschehen machen. Du allein kannst Sünden vergeben. Du hast deinen Sohn Jesus Christus gesandt, dass er die Schuld der Welt auf sich nehme und die Sünder zu dir zurückführe.

Herr Jesus Christus, führe auch mich von mei-nen Irrwegen zurück auf den Weg der Wahrheit und des Lebens. Ich bekenne meine Sünde und bereue sie, weil sie mich von dir fernhält. Herr, verzeih´ mir und schenk mir deinen Geist, damit ich deine Liebe erkenne und sie dankbar erwi-dere.

Gütiger Gott. Ich habe gesündigt, aber ich will mir wieder Mühe geben, das Gute zu tun. Ich kenne meine Schwäche, aber ich vertraue auf deine Hilfe. Du sollst das Ziel sein, das ich immer vor Augen habe. Lass mich dich nicht vergessen, lass mich dich suchen und finden.

Dich liebt, o Gott, mein ganzes Herz; und dies ist mir der größte Schmerz, dass ich erzürnt dich, höchstes Gut. Ach, wasch mich rein in Jesu Blut. Dass ich gesündigt, ist mir leid; zu bessern mich bin ich bereit. Mein Gott und Herr, mir doch verzeih; nie mehr zu fallen, Gnad verleih.

Die vorstehenden Gebete sprechen nur allgemein vom Vorsatz. Selbstverständlich muss jeder entsprechend seinen persönlichen Lebensverhältnissen überlegen, was er sich im Einzelnen vornehmen kann.
Gotteslob Nr. 59, 5,7,8

Vater, ich habe gesündigt vor dir; ich bin nicht wert, dein Kind zu heißen. Du hast mich nach deinem Bild erschaffen und mich zu Großem berufen, und ich habe gesündigt, habe so klein gedacht, geredet und gehandelt durch meine Schuld. - Ich blicke aber auf zu dir und deinem Sohn Jesus Christus. Er ist mein Herr. Auch für mich hat er am Kreuz sein Blut vergossen. Vergib mir meine Schuld, meine Sünden, meine Fehler. Du bist die ewige Liebe, nimm mich wieder an dein Herz und halte mich fest in dei-ner Gnade. Ich will dein sein und dein bleiben. Mach mich frei und führ mich zur herrlichen Freiheit der Kinder Gottes. - Heilige Maria, Mutter Gottes, bitte für uns Sünder jetzt und in der Stunde unseres Todes. Amen.
(Gotteslob Nr. 66, 9)

Aus dem Akt der vollkommenen Reue, wie ihn der selige Pater Marco d'Aviano propagierte

Jesus, Maria. Ich schwaches und unwürdiges Geschöpf werfe mich Dir zu Füßen und beken-ne in tiefster Reue aus einer Seele voll Beschämung meine unzähligen Nachlässigkeiten und Sünden, die ich Zeit meines Lebens begangen habe. Dich hab ich beleidigt, o mein Gott, Dich hab ich beleidigt, und es reut mich aus tiefstem Herzen!

In der lebendigen Hoffnung auf Deine heilige Hilfe habe ich den festen Vorsatz, eher zu sterben als nochmals auch nur eine Todsünde zu begehen. Ohne Ende bereue ich meine Sünden, vor allem deshalb, weil ich Dich, meinen unendlich guten und liebreichen Gott beleidigt habe, von dessen Lob, Dank und Verherrlichung kein Geschöpf je ablassen dürfte. Amen.

(Quelle: www.kapuziner-bayern.de)

kathpedia.com - Reue

Reue ist die Einsicht in eine schuldhafte Unterlassung oder schuldhafte Tat. Keine Reue ist die Erkenntnis, einen bloßen Fehler gemacht zu haben (im Sinne etwa nicht "optimaler" Ausnutzung einer Gelegenheit).

 

Vollkommene Reue


Die vollkommene Reue ist der Wunsch des frommen Herzens, sich aus Liebe zu Gott ganz von der Sünde abzuwenden und sich voll zum Vertrauen in die Liebe Gottes, in der Gemeinschaft mit Jesus Christus, zu bekehren.

 

Unvollkommene Reue


Die nur unvollkommene Reue ist das furchtsame Gefühl des Sünders, sich gegen Gott und die Menschen vergangen zu haben, ohne dass aber zugleich eine volle "Wiederentdeckung der Taufgnade" in Wahrheit und Liebe eintrat. Bei der unvollkommenen Reue kann auch die Angst vor ewiger oder zeitlicher Strafe durch Gott oder die Angst vor der Verfehlung des ewigen Ziels vorwiegen.

 

Beichte als "sicherer Weg"


Die vollkommene Reue ist dazu imstande, die Sünde zu tilgen, auch wenn kein sakramentaler Bußakt stattfindet. Denn jede Hinwendung zu Gott mildert Sünde und Schuld, da Gott die Liebe und Vergebung selber ist.

Diese uralte Überzeugung der Kirche ist aber ungeeignet, die Beichte auf seltene Ausnahmefälle echter Kapitalverbrechen oder schwerer geistlicher Lebenskrisen zu beschränken. Umgekehrt: Christen "müssen" nicht beichten, sie dürfen es! Wer ehrlich ist, der ahnt, wie selten vollkommene Reue und reine Liebe sind. Immer mischen sich auch unedle Motive in unsere Absichten. Das gestattet aber keine Resignation, keinen lutherischen Pessimismus, als ob die Sünde immer den Sieg davontrage. Im Gegenteil: Im Bußsakrament wird die Sünde immer wieder mit Gewissheit besiegt, auch wenn die Reue (wie oft!) nur unvollkommen blieb.

 

Entgegenkommen Gottes


Die Kirche hat in der Geschichte lange gebraucht, um zu erkennen, dass sie im Heiligen Geist die Vergebung überreich und immer "ausschütten" darf, in der Beichte wie im Ablass. Ursprünglich war die Bußpraxis viel strenger. Christus aber holt durch die Priester die Seinen notfalls täglich in die Herrlichkeit seiner Gnade zurück, wenn wir ihm dafür nur einen Anlass bieten: ein reumütiges Herz, ein aufrichtiges Bekenntnbis, der Wille zur Besserung und entsprechende Akte der Wiedergutmachung.

 

Zitat


In einem älteren Gebetsheft aus Regensburg (1973) schrieb Pfarrer A.M. Weigl:

Was soll ich tun, wenn ich schwer gesündigt habe, wenn ich gar sterben muss und nicht mehr beichten kann? Vor allem nicht verzweifeln, sondern vertrauen und bereuen! So tief ist niemand gesunken, dass er nicht durch Gottes Gnade und Jesu Blut gerettet werden könnte. Vertraue auf die unendliche, göttliche Barmherzigkeit, die für Dich am Kreuze verblutete. Bedenke, dass die Wunden des gekreuzigten Heilandes der ergreifendste Ausdruck Seiner unendlichen Liebe und Güte sind, und bereue dann aus Liebe zu Gott alle Deine Sünden, indem Du mit heiligem Ernst betest:


Mein Herr und mein Gott! Ich bereue alle meine Sünden, weil ich Dich, die ewige, unendliche Liebe und Güte, beleidigt habe. Ich bin fest entschlossen, nach Deinem heiligen Willen zu leben und zu sterben.

Dich liebt o Gott, mein ganzes Herz, und das ist mir der größte Schmerz, dass ich betrübt Dich höchstes Gut, ach wasch mich rein Deinem Blut.

Oder kurz: Mein Jesus, Barmherzigkeit!

Im Augenblick höchster Gefahr kann der Gedanke JESUS genügen. Durchdrungen von dieser Gesinnung, kannst Du jeden Augenblick mit Gott versöhnt und wieder ein Kind Gottes werden. Denn die Liebe zerstört die Sünde und bringt die Gnade wieder. Diese Liebesreue schließt den Entschluss ein, wenigstens die schweren Sünden bei der nächsten Beichte zu bekennen. 

(Quelle: "http://www.kathpedia.com/index.php?title=Reue")


 

kathpedia.com - Beichtvater

Beichtvater ist die im Deutschen allgemein übliche Bezeichnung für einen Priester, der das Bußsakrament erteilt (Absolution). Im engeren Sinne ist damit ein Priester gemeint, der ein "Beichtkind" (auch einen Erwachsenen) über eine längere Lebensphase hinweg begleitet, d.h. ein so gen. geistlicher Begleiter oder Seelenführer.

 

Entwicklung


Auch die Fürsten und Päpste hatten zum Teil berühmte Beichtväter (so der Jesuit Augustin Bea bei Papst Pius XII.). Solange die Seelsorge in den Pfarreien von einer allgemeinen Sakramentenpraxis getragen war, ist häufig der Pfarrer auch Beichtvater einer großen Zahl seiner Pfarrangehörigen gewesen. Jedoch wurde schon häufig für weitere Beichtgelegenheiten bei anderen Priestern gesorgt, so z.B. durch Volksmissionen oder Seelsorgsaushilfen.

Heute konzentriert sich die sakramentale Bußpraxis mitunter auf bestimmte geistliche Zentren oder Wallfahrtsorte. Die Krise des Bußsakraments in Europa wird teilweise als Indiz einer fortschreitenden Auflösung des pastoralen Territorialprinzips (Pfarreien, Dekanate, Bistümer) gedeutet. In geistlichen Gemeinschaften und Orden ist nämlich die Bußpraxis weniger zurückgegangen bzw. erfährt sie teilweise sogar einen neuen Aufschwung bzw. eine Wiederbelebung.

 

Zweck


In jüngster Zeit sind erfreuliche Rückbesinnungen auf die Kraft der geistlichen Führung durch einen Beichtvater zu erkennen. In engster Auffassung der Sakramententheologie genügt die Beichte mit Lossprechung in solchen Fällen schwerer Sünde, in denen sich der Christ bewusst geworden ist und vollkommen bereut, die Gemeinschaft mit Christus verloren zu haben. Da dies jedoch dem Belieben des Einzelnen nur schlecht völlig freigestellt werden kann, schreibt die Kirche die mindestens jährliche Beichte vor, empfiehlt aber überschaubarere Zeiträume.

Damit wird nicht unterstellt, dass jeder Christ mindestens jährlich eine so schwere Sünde begangen haben "muss", die ihn im Todesfalle der Anschauung Gottes verlustig werden lässt. Der Sinn dieses Kirchengebots ist vielmehr darin zu erblicken, dass der Christ sich zumindest im Jahresabstand der Wiederherstellung der Taufgnade und damit einer augenblicklichen Heilsgewissheit erfreuen soll. Denn der Verlust der Gewissheit in der Treue zur Liebe Christi ist der gefährlichste Nährboden nicht nur für schwerste und schwere Sünden, sondern auch für andere Sündhaftigkeit und Laster, die den Ausblick auf die göttliche Herrlichkeit unglücklich versperren.

 


Das Beichtendürfen


Die Beichtväter sind gehalten, entgegen weitverbreitetem Vorurteil, den Pönitenten die Freude daran zu vermitteln, dass die Beichte ein Beichtendürfen ist, kein Beichtenmüssen. Der katholische Glaube lehrt nämlich, dass die sakramentale Lossprechung durch den in persona Christi handelnden Priester zu einer wirklichen Tilgung der Sündenschuld führt, also einer vollständigen Wiederherstellung der Taufgnade. Die Theologie der Reformation hat der Kirche diese Autorität Christi abgesprochen, konsequenterweise aber auch die Theologie der Taufe dahingehend verändert, dass die Sünde Adams letztlich noch nicht überwunden wurde.

An die Stelle der katholischen Heilsgewissheit tritt die subjektive Hoffnung. Die Institution des Beichtvaters hingegen verdeutlicht auf eine Art und Weise, deren Überzeugungskraft kaum zu überbieten ist (und seit jeher auch das Interesse der weniger Frommen provoziert), dass der gläubige Christ nicht allein mit "seinem Gott" ist, sondern dass die Gnade Christi in konkreten Zeichen des kirchlichen Gegenübers immer wieder tatsächlich zu den Menschen kommt.

Aus diesen Gründen wählen viele Getaufte den Weg des Vertrauens zu einem häufig konsultierten Beichtvater, um in der Nachfolge Christi zuverlässige Fortschritte der Liebe zu vollbringen, deren Wirksamkeit das bloße Innenleben des Einzelnen folglich (in verantwortungsbewusster Weise) auf die Gemeinschaft hin überschreitet. Diese Gemeinschaftsbeziehung des katholischen Erlösungsverständnisses konkretisiert sich auch in der Lehre vom Ablass.

 

Literatur


Alfons Maria von Liguori, Der Beichtvater:
Band: Christliche Morallehre,
Band: Behandlung des Beichtenden.

(Quelle: http://www.kathpedia.com/index.php?title=Beichtvater)

 

Beichte - FAQ's

13 Fragen und 13 Antworten
von Kaplan Ulrich Filler
Siehe auch: http://www.beichten.info/

1. Ich kann doch selbst Gott um Verzeihung bitten. Warum brauche ich dazu einen Priester?


Natürlich kann man Gott im Gebet um die Verzeihung der Schuld bitten. Das soll man sogar häufig tun! Das aber ersetzt die Beichte nicht. Die Beichte ist ein Geschenk Jesu an uns. Warum wollen wir dieses Geschenk nicht annehmen? Wenn wir ehrlich sind, ist das doch oft nur eine faule Ausrede, um die unangenehme Beichte herumzukommen. Oder wann haben Sie das letzte Mal wirklich im Gebet die Sünden bereut? Ohne die Beichte wissen wir nicht mit Sicherheit, ob Gott uns auch die Schuld vergibt. Diese Sicherheit haben wir aber nach einer guten Beichte. Außerdem ist meine Schuld nicht nur eine Sache zwischen mir und Gott. Ich bin auch vor anderen Menschen schuldig geworden - auch vor der Gemeinschaft der Kirche, zu der ich gehöre. Durch die Beichte wird auch mein Verhältnis zur Gemeinschaft der Kirche wieder in Ordnung gebracht.

 

2. Ich weiß nicht, was ich beichten soll. Ich habe keine schlimmen Sachen gemacht!


"Wenn wir sagen, dass wir keine Sünde haben, führen wir uns selbst in die Irre, und die Wahrheit ist nicht in uns. Wenn wir unsere Sünden bekennen, ist er treu und gerecht; er vergibt uns die Sünden und reinigt uns von allem Unrecht. Wenn wir sagen, dass wir nicht gesündigt haben, machen wir ihn zum Lügner, und sein Wort ist nicht in uns. Meine Kinder, ich schreibe euch dies, damit ihr nicht sündigt. Wenn aber einer sündigt, haben wir einen Beistand beim Vater: Jesus Christus, den Gerechten." (1 Joh 1,8-2,1) Wem keine Sünde einfällt, der hat vielleicht nicht gut genug darüber nachgedacht! Nach einer vernünftigen Gewissenserforschung (z. B. im Gotteslob Nr. 62ff.) sieht die Sache schon ganz anders aus! Oder beten Sie jeden Tag? Können Sie ehrlichen Herzens sagen, dass Sie wirklich versuchen, Gott zu lieben und Christus zu folgen? Sind Sie nie lieblos, gemein, unehrlich, schadenfroh? Nie eine "kleine Lüge"? Sind Sie niemals zornig, ungeduldig, unmäßig? Sünden sind nicht nur Mord und Totschlag. Sünden sind bei uns viel öfter auch bestimmte Denkarten, Gewohnheiten oder Charakterschwächen, an denen wir arbeiten müssen.

 

3. Ich habe schon mal ganz schlechte Erfahrungen mit der Beichte gemacht!


Das ist schade. Aber es ist die absolute Ausnahme, dass sich ein Priester im Beichtstuhl wirklich einmal im Ton vergreift. Selbst schlechte Erfahrungen sollten uns aber nicht daran hindern, einen anderen Priester aufzusuchen und gute Erfahrungen zu machen! Geben wir Christus eine Chance!

 

4. Die anderen gehen auch alle nicht beichten!


Na und? Nur weil es die Mehrheit ist, handelt sie dadurch nicht automatisch richtig! Nur tote Fische schwimmen mit dem Strom! Außerdem - seien Sie ehrlich - das Argument: "Alle anderen machen es aber so..." ist doch eine faule Ausrede für die eigene Feigheit oder Bequemlichkeit!

 

5. Ich weiß gar nicht mehr, wie das geht!


Wo ein Wille ist, da ist auch ein Weg. Ohne große Mühe kann man sich darüber informieren, wie die Beichte abläuft und wie man sich vorbereitet (z. B. im Gotteslob Nr. 58 - 66). Übrigens kann man auch jemanden fragen, der sich damit auskennt - z. B. den Kaplan oder den Pfarrer. Notfalls kann man auch zur Beichte gehen und sagen: "Ich möchte gerne beichten, aber ich weiß nicht genau wie das geht und was ich sagen soll." Nur Mut! Der Priester wird niemanden auslachen, sondern im Gegenteil Respekt vor Ihrem Mut haben!

 

6. Ich habe schon seit vielen Jahren nicht mehr gebeichtet!


Das ist doch erst recht ein Grund, wieder mit der Beichte anzufangen! Man freut sich doch auch darüber, wenn man nach vielen Jahren etwas von einem guten Freund hört, von dem man schon geglaubt hat, man hätte ihn verloren! Und dann will man nicht nur ein kleines Gespräch - man will die Freundschaft fortsetzen! Christus wartet sehnsüchtig auf uns in seinem Sakrament der Versöhnung! Übrigens sind wir verpflichtet, mindestens einmal im Jahr (und zwar möglichst in der österlichen Zeit) zu beichten. Das gleiche Gebot verpflichtet uns auch, mindestens einmal im Jahr das Sakrament der Eucharistie zu empfangen (d.h. zur Kommunion zu gehen). Ist es nicht merkwürdig, dass heute alle in jeder Messe die hl. Kommunion empfangen, oftmals ohne sich zu fragen: Bin ich eigentlich für diese intensive Christusbegegnung vorbereitet? Wer regelmäßig zur Kommunion geht, sollte auch regelmäßig beichten!

 

7. Die Beichte nutzt nichts. Ich habe schon oft gebeichtet, aber ich habe mich gar nicht gebessert.


Wenn man glaubt, nach einer Beichte mit Heiligenschein durch die Gegend zu wandeln, hat man sich getäuscht! Es braucht viele, viele kleine Schritte auf dem Weg zu Gott hin. Aber jede Beichte - so nutzlos sie uns auch erscheinen - mag, so wenig wir uns doch zu ändern scheinen - ist ein wunderbares Geschenk. Man weiß ja nicht, was man ohne diese kleinen Schritte für ein Mensch wäre! Und hier gilt: Verlieren Sie niemals den Mut! Und wenn Sie immer und immer wieder denselben Fehler, dieselbe Sünde beichten müssen - tun Sie es ruhig. Wenn nötig, jede Woche. Immer wieder. Christus freut sich immer, wenn wir kommen.

"Wir werden nicht auf einmal, durch eine einzige Beichte zu Heiligen. Wir müssen mit uns selbst Geduld haben, wie auch Gott Geduld hat. Aber jede gute Beichte ist ein Schritt nach vorn auf dem Weg zu Gott. Vergessen wir niemals: Was im Gericht der Barmherzigkeit gerichtet wird, kommt nicht mehr vor das Endgericht." (Rudolf Graber)

 

8. Ich kenne den Pfarrer/Kaplan ganz gut und sie kennen mich auch persönlich. Zu denen möchte ich nicht gehen.


Muss man ja auch nicht. In anderen Pfarrgemeinden, in großen Kirchen oder an Wallfahrtsorten (z. B. Altötting) kann man völlig anonym beichten. Übrigens zeigt die Erfahrung, dass durch die Beichte persönliche Beziehungen keine Belastung erfahren. Auf jeden Fall hat es viele Vorteile, wenn man einen festen Beichtvater hat, der uns regelmäßig auf unserem Weg begleitet.

 

9. Es ist mir peinlich, beichten zu gehen.


Wem nicht? Na klar - es ist niemals angenehm, seine Sünden zu bekennen, sein Herz ganz zu öffnen. Wir sehen dann nämlich gar nicht mehr so toll und strahlend aus, wie wir uns selbst gerne sehen und wie wir uns wünschen, dass die anderen uns sehen. Wer den Mut hat, seine Sünden zu bekennen, zeigt, dass er es ernst meint mit der Umkehr. Und jeder Priester hat Hochachtung vor jedem, der zur Beichte kommt, ganz egal, welche Sünden er bekennt.

 

10. Ich habe so schlimme Sünden begangen, die kann ich gar nicht beichten.


Wer sich selbst für den schlimmsten Sünder auf Erden hält, ist ganz schön hochmütig eingestellt, oder? Wenn wir beichten gehen, dann sind wir (meistens) weder die schlimmsten Sünder noch die besten Menschen. Wir sind meistens nur ganz gewöhnliche, mittelmäßige Sünder. Das ist nicht schlimm, solange wir versuchen, keine mittelmäßigen Christen zu sein. Ein alter Pfarrer sagte vor vielen Jahren, er würde demjenigen 50,-- € schenken, der ihm eine Sünde beichtet, die er noch nie gehört hat. Er hat das Geld noch heute...

Von einem Heiligen stammt der Satz: Es ist nicht so schlimm, dass der Mensch sündigt, denn der Mensch ist schwach und die Versuchung ist groß. Schlimm ist, dass der Mensch jederzeit die Möglichkeit der Umkehr hat und sie nicht nutzt!

 

11. Ich gehe nicht gerne in den dunklen Beichtstuhl.


Kein Problem. Fragen Sie den Priester nach der Möglichkeit des Beichtgesprächs.

 

12. Was ist eigentlich ein Beichtgespräch?


Wie der Name schon sagt, ist es eine Beichte in der Form eines Gesprächs mit dem Priester. Man hat die Möglichkeit, ausführlicher über das eigene Leben und die eigene Schuld zu sprechen. Ein Beichtgespräch empfiehlt sich, wenn man längere Zeit nicht gebeichtet hat; sich unsicher ist, wie man richtig beichtet; eine Lebensbeichte (s.u.) ablegen möchte oder nicht gerne in den Beichtstuhl geht

 

13. Was ist eigentlich eine Lebensbeichte?


Als Lebensbeichte bezeichnet man eine Beichte (Beichtgespräch), die man vor entscheidenden Situationen im Leben ablegt (z. B. vor der Firmung, vor der Hochzeit, vor einer langen Reise, vor einer Operation usw.). Man möchte sein ganzes bisheriges Leben noch einmal vor Christus hintragen, sich von Ihm umarmen lassen und seine Liebe, seine Gnade und seine Vergebung erfahren.

(Quelle: http://www.kapuziner-bayern.de/Beichte/Fragen.php)

 

DECLARATION

Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith

DECLARATION*

 

The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the following declaration:

In order to safeguard in the most absolute manner the respect due to the Sacrament of Penance and to the secrecy of sacramental confession, the Church has had to threaten sanctions, even very grave ones, against those who should profane this sacrament or violate its secrecy.

Since it is now public knowledge that there is about to be published a volume containing the text of true or simulated sacramental confessions, the S. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, by virtue of the powers conferred upon it by the supreme Authority of the Church, notifies that whoever is guilty of contempt of the sacrament of Penance, by tape-recording confessions, whether true or simulated, either as author or as collaborator, by that very fact places himself outside the communion of the Church, that is to say, he falls “ipso facto” under excommunication, from which however, if duly disposed, be can be absolved by any priest legitimately authorized to hear confessions.

23 March 1973.

Fr. JÉRÔME HAMER, O.P.
Secretary

 

* L’Osservatore Romano, English Edition, April 5, 1973, Page 4.

(Source: http://www.doctrinafidei.va/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19730323_tutela-sacr-penitenza_en.html)

 

New-Fangled Ideas

An elderly priest was speaking to a younger priest. "You had a good idea to replace the first four pews with plush bucket theatre seats. It worked like a charm! The front of the church always fills first now."

As the young priest nodded, the old priest continued, “You also told me to assign a little more beat to the music because it would bring young people back to church. So, I supported you when you bought in that rock ‘n’ roll Gospel choir. Now, our services are consistently packed.“

"Thank you, Father," answered the young priest. "I am pleased that you are open to the new ideas of youth."

"All of these ideas have been well and good," said the elderly priest. "But, I'm afraid you've gone too far with the drive-thru confessional."

"But Father," protested the young priest. "My confessions and donations have nearly doubled since I began that!"

"Yes," replied, the elderly priest. "I appreciate that, but the flashing neon sign, ‘Toot 'n’ Tell or Go to Hell’ cannot stay on the church roof!"

(author unknown)

Why do Catholics confess their sins to a priest, rather than going directly to God?

Well, the quick answer is because that's the way God wants us to do it. In James 5:16, God, through Sacred Scripture, commands us to "confess our sins to one another." Notice, Scripture does not say confess your sins straight to God and only to God...it says confess your sins to one another.

In Matthew, chapter 9, verse 6, Jesus tells us that He was given authority on earth to forgive sins. And then Scripture proceeds to tell us, in verse 8, that this authority was given to "men"...plural.

In John 20, verses 21-23, what is the 1st thing Jesus says to the gathered disciples on the night of His resurrection? "Jesus said to them, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.'" How did the Father send Jesus? Well, we just saw in Mt 9 that the Father sent Jesus with the authority on earth to forgive sins. Now, Jesus sends out His disciples as the Father has sent Him...so, what authority must Jesus be sending His disciples out with? The authority on earth to forgive sins. And, just in case they didn't get it, verses 22-23 say this, "And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.'"

Why would Jesus give the Apostles the power to forgive or to retain sins if He wasn't expecting folks to confess their sins to them? And how could they forgive or retain sins if no one was confessing their sins to them?

The Bible tells us to confess our sins to one another. It also tells us that God gave men the authority on Earth to forgive sins. Jesus sends out His disciples with the authority on earth to forgive sins. When Catholics confess our sins to a priest, we are simply following the plan laid down by Jesus Christ. He forgives sins through the priest...it is God's power, but He exercises that power through the ministry of the priest.

(Source: Bible Christian Society / John Martignoni. http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/apologetics/two_minute#1. Used with permission)

Reconciliation

Roman Catholic Christians believe, as do some other Christians, that Jesus gave to the Apostles and their successors the power to forgive sins, reconciling sinners to God for sins committed after Baptism.

On numerous occasions, Jesus exercised the power to forgive sin.

Mk 2:5
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Child, your sins are forgiven."
Lk 7:47
So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.

Jesus scandalized some Jews of his own time by claiming to have the authority to forgive sins.

Mk 2:7
Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?

Jesus clearly stated that he had the authority to forgive sins.

Mk 2:10-12
"But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth"-- he said to the paralytic, "I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home." He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone.

Jesus gave the same authority to Peter.

Mt 16:19
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Jesus later gave the same authority to all the Apostles.

Mt 18:18
Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

The Apostle John, an eyewitness, recorded more directly the words of Jesus giving the power to forgive sins to all the Apostles after the testimony of the Resurrection.

Jn 20:23
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.

Many Christians ask why confession of sin is required for forgiveness. The Church responds that the need for personal confession of sin is required in order for forgiveness because that is the only way a confessor can judge whether to forgive or retain sins. A judgment cannot be made unless the sin in question is known and the disposition of the penitent is also known.

The New Testament speaks of confession of sin.

Ja 5:16
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
1 Jn 1:9
If we acknowledge (confess) our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.

Other New Testament scriptures bear witness that the Apostolic Church acknowledged the use of the power to forgive sins.

Acts 2:38
Peter (said) to them, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit."
1 Jn 1:9
If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing.
1 Jn 2:12
I am writing to you, children, because your sins have been forgiven for his name's sake.

The constant teaching of the Church and the Fathers of the Church in explicit words testify to the existence and use of the power to forgive sins in the Church.

The Didache, (70-110), Ch.4:13
You shall confess your offenses in church, and shall not come forward to your prayer with a bold conscience. This is the way of life.
Tertullian (Rome, 160-220), On Modesty, Ch 21, ML 2, 1024
"But," you say, "the church has the power of forgiving sins." This I acknowledge and adjudge more [than you; I] who have the Paraclete Himself in the persons of the new prophets, saying, "The church has the power to forgive sins"
Ambrose (Tier, 340-397), On the Holy Spirit, Bk. 3, Ch 18, ML 16, 808
See that sins are forgiven through the Holy Spirit. But men make use of their ministry for the forgiveness of sins, they do not exercise the right of any power of their own. For they forgive sins not in their own name but in that of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. They ask, the Godhead gives, the service is of man, the gift is of the Power on high.
Jerome (Stridon, 345-419), Letters, No. 14, ML 22, 352
Far be it to censure the successors of the apostles, who with holy words consecrate the body of Christ, and who make us Christians. Having the keys of the kingdom of heaven, they judge men to some extent before the day of judgment, and guard the chastity of the Bride of Christ.

The ecumenical councils of the Church, the official Magisterium, also attest to the truth of this sacrament.

The Council of Constance (1414 - 1418)
A Christian has the obligation, over and above heartfelt contrition, of confessing to a priest.
The Council of Florence (1438-1445)
The fourth sacrament is penance.
The Council of Trent (1545 - 1563)
But our Lord instituted the sacrament of penance notably on the occasion when after his resurrection, he breathed upon his disciples saying: "Receive the Holy Spirit; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained" (John 20:22). The universal agreement of the Father has always understood that by such a striking action and by clear words the power of remitting and of retaining sins, and of reconciling the faithful who have fallen after baptism was communicated to the apostles and to their legitimate successors; ... Therefore this holy council accepts and approves the true meaning of these words of our Lord and condemns the false interpretation of ... those words.

A Biblical Portrait of Sin

To fully understand what God accomplishes in us when He forgives sin, it is important to look to the Bible for the meaning of sin.

Sin in man is, first, an aversion or turning away from God.

Job 34:27
Because they (humankind) turned away from him (God) and heeded none of his ways ...
Is 1:2-4
Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth, for the Lord speaks: Sons have I raised and reared, but they have disowned me! An ox knows its owner, and an ass, its master's manger; But Israel does not know, my people has not understood. Ah! sinful nation, people laden with wickedness, evil race, corrupt children! They have forsaken the Lord, spurned the Holy One of Israel, apostatized.
Dan 9:9-10
But yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness! Yet we rebelled against you and paid no heed to your command, O Lord, our God, to live by the law you gave us through your servants the prophets.
Rom 1:19-24
For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes. Therefore, God handed them over ...
Phil 3:18-19
For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their "shame." Their minds are occupied with earthly things.
Mt 6:24
"No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon."
Jn 12:43
For they (the Pharisees) preferred human praise to the glory of God.
Ja 4:4
Adulterers! Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

The sin of man is also a conversion or turning to created things.

Rom 1:19-24
For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them. Ever since the creation of the world, his invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what he has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord him glory as God or give him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man or of birds or of four-legged animals or of snakes. Therefore, God handed them over ...
Phil 3:18-19
For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their "shame." Their minds are occupied with earthly things.
Jn 12:43
For they (the Pharisees) preferred human praise to the glory of God.
Ja 4:4
Adulterers! Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
Is 22: 12-13
On that day the Lord, the GOD of hosts, called on you To weep and mourn, to shave your head and put on sackcloth. But look! you feast and celebrate, you slaughter oxen and butcher sheep, You eat meat and drink wine: "Eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!"
Rev 18:7
To the measure of her boasting and wantonness repay her (Babylon) in torment and grief ...

Aversion from God leads to eternal death.

Rom 6:23
For the wages of sin is death ...
Col 2:13
And even when you were dead (in) transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh ...
Rom 7:13
Sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin, worked death in me through the good

Turning to created things leads to punishment from God.

Num 14:20-23
The Lord answered (Moses): "I pardon them as you have asked. Yet, by my life and the Lord's glory that fills the whole earth, of all the men who have seen my glory and the signs I worked in Egypt and in the desert, and who nevertheless have put me to the test ten times already and have failed to heed my voice, not one shall see the land which I promised on oath to their fathers. None of these who have spurned me shall see it."
2 Sam 12:13-14
Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." Nathan answered David: "The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the Lord by this deed, the child born to you must surely die."
1 Cor 11:29-32
For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying. If we discerned ourselves, we would not be under judgment; but since we are judged by (the) Lord, we are being disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.
Rev 18:7
To the measure of her boasting and wantonness repay her (Babylon) in torment and grief ...

The saving power of the blood of Christ saves us from eternal death and washes us free of the guilt of sin.

Eph 1:7
In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace
Eph 2:5
Even when we were dead in our transgressions, (God) brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
Eph 2:13
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ.
Rom 5:9
How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood, will we be saved through him.
Col 1:14
... in whom (Jesus) we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
Heb 9:13-14
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God.
Heb 13:12
Therefore, Jesus also suffered outside the gate, to consecrate the people by his own blood.
1 Pet 1:18-20
... realizing that you were ransomed from your futile conduct, handed on by your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold but with the precious blood of Christ as of a spotless unblemished lamb.
1 Jn 1:7
But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.
Rev 1:5
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood ...

The Word of God provides a way for man to do reparation--to remove the temporal punishment due for sin--for the personal or social values lessened or destroyed when man turned to created things in sin.

Dan 4:24
Therefore, O king, take my advice; atone for your sins by good deeds, and for your misdeeds by kindness to the poor.
Joel 1:14
Proclaim a fast, call an assembly; Gather the elders, all who dwell in the land, Into the house of the Lord, your God, and cry to the Lord!
1 Kgs 21:26-29
He (Ahab) became completely abominable by following idols, just as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord drove out before the Israelites. When Ahab heard these words, he tore his garments and put on sackcloth over his bare flesh. He fasted, slept in the sackcloth, and went about subdued. Then the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, "Have you seen that Ahab has humbled himself before me? Since he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his time. I will bring the evil upon his house during the reign of his son."
Jonah 3:6-10
When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in the ashes. Then he had this proclaimed throughout Nineveh, by decree of the king and his nobles: "Neither man nor beast, neither cattle nor sheep, shall taste anything; they shall not eat, nor shall they drink water. Man and beast shall be covered with sackcloth and call loudly to God; every man shall turn from his evil way and from the violence he has in hand. Who knows, God may relent and forgive, and withhold his blazing wrath, so that we shall not perish." When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.
Prov 16:6
By kindness and piety guilt is expiated, and by the fear of the Lord man avoids evil.
Mt 6:16-18
When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.
Mk 9:28-29
When he entered the house, his disciples asked him in private, "Why could we not drive it (deaf/mute spirit) out?" He said to them, "This kind can only come out through prayer."
Act 10:4
Your prayers and almsgiving have ascended as a memorial offering before God.
1 Pet 4:8
Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.

The constant faith, paradosis, of the Church attests to the two-fold effects of sin, aversion from God and conversion to created things, the two-fold punishments due to sin, eternal and temporal, and the satisfaction of one by the blood of Christ and the other by reparation.

    • Tertullian (Rome, 160 -220 AD),
    • Athanasius (Alexandria, Egypt, 293 - 373 AD),
    • Ambrose (Tier, Germany, 340 - 397 AD),
    • Jerome (Stridon, Slovenia, 345 - 419 AD),
    • etc.

The 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the double aspect of sin as follows:

Catechism Section 1472
To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the "eternal punishment" of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the "temporal punishment" of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain.

By way of summary, the following is a chart of the revelation of sin and its consequences.

SIN
aversion from God
conversion to created things
(Job 34:27)
(Is 22:12)
|
|
OFFENDS GOD
PERSONAL/SOCIAL VALUES LESSENED/DESTROYED
CULPA
POENA
(Rom 1:19)
(Rev 18:7)
|
|
eternal punishment due
temporal punishment due
(Phil 3:18)
(2 Sam 12:13; Jonah 3:5)
|
|
DEATH
REPARATION
(Rom 6:23)
(Acts 10:4; Dan 4:24)
|
|
OR
OR
|
|
Friendship restored at Calvary
Punishment from God
(Eph 1:7)
(1 Cor 11:27)
|
|
GRACE
POWER OF THE KEYS
(Eph 2:5; 2 Tim 1:9)
(Mt 16:19; Mt 18:18)
Before death: Indulgences (Mt 16:19)
After death: Purgatory (1 Cor 3:11)

The Existence of Sin

It is frequently said that what the Catholic Church taught about sin was not always biblical. Catholic Christianity has always used the Bible as its source for what is sinful.

It is important to state that all sin offends God. With even the slightest sin in our eyes, we alienate God and are unholy in his sight.

Mt 6:24
No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Ja 4:4-10
Adulterers! Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that the scripture speaks without meaning when it says, "The spirit that he has made to dwell in us tends toward jealousy"? But he bestows a greater grace; therefore, it says: "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds. Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.

It has been objected that the long standing teaching of the Church of a distinction between "mortal" and "venial" sin was an artificial distinction. But is was the Apostle John, Evangelist and author of three epistles as well as the Book of Revelation, from whom the church took that distinction among sins.

1 Jn 5:16-17
If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly (venial), he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin (mortal), about which I do not say that you should pray. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly.

The Church is also criticized for teaching sin by lists. But again it is from the Bible itself that the Church takes the lead in teaching the word of God about those behaviors which are sin.

Mk 7:20-23
(Jesus said) "But what comes out of a person, that is what defiles. From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils come from within and they defile."
Gal 5:19-21
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Eph 4:25-31
... putting away falsehood ... Be angry but do not sin ... The thief must no longer steal ... No foul language should come out of your mouths ... All bitterness, fury, anger, shouting, and reviling must be removed from you, along with all malice.
Eph 5:3-7
Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient. So do not be associated with them.
Eph 5:18
And do not get drunk on wine, in which lies debauchery
Mt 5:28
But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Mt 5:32
But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife (unless the marriage is unlawful) causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Mt 5:34
But I say to you, do not swear at all
Rev 21:8
But as for cowards, the unfaithful, the depraved, murderers, the unchaste, sorcerers, idol-worshipers, and deceivers of every sort, their lot is in the burning pool of fire and sulfur, which is the second death.
1 Cor 6:9-10
Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Indulgences

By definition, an indulgence is the remission in whole or in part of the temporal punishment due to personal sin, provided that the sin has already been forgiven. The power invested in the Church and her bishops and priests to grant indulgences is found in several scriptures.

To Peter alone Jesus granted the first power to bind and loose anything.

Mt 16:19
I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

To all the disciples Jesus later granted the same power to bind and loose.

Mt 18:18
Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

To all the disciples Jesus gave the power to forgive sins.

Jn 20:21-23
(Jesus) said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained."

As can be seen from the nature of personal sin, as man turns from God and towards created things, man incurs both guilt and punishment. Through the blood of Jesus, all guilt of sin-turning from God--is remitted through confession of sin. Punishment, limited temporal punishment due to sin-preferring created things to God--still remains.

Num 14:20-23
The Lord answered (Moses): "I pardon them as you have asked. Yet, by my life and the Lord's glory that fills the whole earth, of all the men who have seen my glory and the signs I worked in Egypt and in the desert, and who nevertheless have put me to the test ten times already and have failed to heed my voice, not one shall see the land which I promised on oath to their fathers. None of these who have spurned me shall see it."
2 Sam 12:13-14
Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." Nathan answered David: "The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die. But since you have utterly spurned the Lord by this deed, the child born to you must surely die."
1 Cor 11:29-32
For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying. If we discerned ourselves, we would not be under judgment; but since we are judged by (the) Lord, we are being disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

The three classic actions leading to indulgences are prayer, good deeds and almsgiving.

Prov 16:6
By kindness and piety guilt is expiated, and by the fear of the Lord man avoids evil.
Dan 4:24
Therefore, O king, take my advice; atone for your sins by good deeds, and for your misdeeds by kindness to the poor; then your prosperity will be long.
Luke 19:8-9
But Zacchaeus stood there and said to the Lord, "Behold, half of my possessions, Lord, I shall give to the poor, and if I have extorted anything from anyone I shall repay it four times over." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham."
Act 10:4
Your prayers and almsgiving have ascended as a memorial offering before God.

The teaching Magisterium of the church in ecumenical council also affirms indulgences.

Council of Trent (1545-1563), Decree on Indulgences, Sess. 25
Christ gave the power of granting indulgences to the Church, and since the Church has, even in ancient times, made use of this divinely given power (Mt. 16:19; 18:18), the holy council teaches and commands that the usage of indulgences--a usage most beneficial to Christians and approved by the authority of the holy councils--should be kept up in the Church; and it anathematizes those who say that indulgences are useless, or that the Church does not have the power of granting them.
Vatican Council II (1962-1965), Constitution of the Revision of Indulgences, No. 1
The doctrine of indulgences and their practice have been in force for many centuries in the Catholic Church. They would appear to be solidly founded on Divine Revelation, handed down "from the apostles."

From the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 1471
An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven, which the faithful Christian who is duly disposed gains under certain prescribed conditions through the action of the Church which, as the minister of redemption, dispenses and applies with authority the treasury of the satisfactions of Christ and the saints.
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 1473
The forgiveness of sin and restoration of communion with God entail the remission of the eternal punishment of sin, but temporal punishment of sin remains. While patiently bearing sufferings and trials of all kinds and, when the day comes, serenely facing death, the Christian must strive to accept this temporal punishment of sin as a grace. He should strive by works of mercy and charity, as well as by prayer and the various practices of penance, to put off completely the "old man" and to put on the "new man."
Catechism of the Catholic Church, Sections 1478-1479
An indulgence is obtained through the Church who, by virtue of the power of binding and loosing granted her by Christ Jesus, intervenes in favor of individual Christians and opens for them the treasury of the merits of Christ and the saints to obtain from the Father of mercies the remission of the temporal punishments due for their sins. Thus the Church does not want simply to come to the aid of these Christians, but also to spur them to works of devotion, penance, and charity. Since the faithful departed now being purified are also members of the same communion of saints, one way we can help them is to obtain indulgences for them, so that the temporal punishments due for their sins may be remitted.



(Quelle: http://romanticcatholic.com/apologetics.html - used with permission)

 

Forgive And Be Free Mathew 18:21-35

The Art Of Healing From A Deep Wound

There is a story about a fellow in the army who suffered a nasty deep gash in his leg. After the doctor had a good look at the wound, he pulled out a pan of warm water & a soft brush & began to cleanse the wound with the water, soap and the nylon brush. The cleansing of the wound was very painful.

And the soldier looked at the doctor & asked, "can't you just stitch it up without cleaning it?" The doctor replied by saying that it was necessary to clean the wound in order for it to be healed
properly. He continued to say that if it were not cleaned up, the healing process would be slow and also would be prone to becoming infected. The wound he said needs to be cleaned so that the wound would heal from the inside out.

Many of us have deep wounds that we have been carrying around for a long time. These wounds also need to be cleansed from the inside out. These wounds are so well hidden that no else can see them.

What I am talking about is the wound of "unforgiveness." We receive this nasty wound when we choose to not forgive others who have hurt us in one way or another. Un-forgiveness stems from memories that still hurt. These memories come back everyone in once a while and they still hurt. The pain that you suffer comes from memories of being ridiculed, of physical or sexual abuse, harassment, etc.

The problem here is that many of us have buried these hurts deep down within and have never told anyone about it. You think about it often and it festers inside like an open gash that has never been allowed to heal properly.

The question is, do you want to be healed? Or do you want to continue on for the rest of your life always being angry with someone who has hurt you.

Do you want to continue on for the rest of your life in pain?

There is a way to be healed from the inside out. We need to let Doctor Jesus take the Holy Ghost brush, using the water and soap of His Word & blood to cleanse those hidden wounds that have become infected.


There are two universal truths about life.

1) It is almost safe to say that everybody has a hidden wound, of
some sort, even though they may be masking it well, it is still there

2) The second truth is that emotional scars take a lot longer to
heal than physical wounds.


Ask any Vietnam Vet. Many have come home with missing arms and legs.

But, try to talk to them about the horrors of war, which they have witnessed.

They will tell you that they have terrible dreams for many years, which haunt them day and night.

Such is the deep, deep wound of not forgiving others. If allowed, it will scar you for life.

Please allow me to give you 8 characteristics of an unforgiving person. See for yourself if any or all of these characteristics fits you. If any, or all sounds like you, it could be that you have been
wounded and are in need of healing.

Bitterness by the way is a character trait of un-forgiveness.


Here are the 8 characteristics of an unforgiving person.

1) A bitter person cares very little for the person he is bitter
against.

2) He is very touchy.

3) Can be ungrateful.

4) Gives empty flattery & harsh criticism.

5) Holds grudges.

6) He displays stubbornness or a sulky attitude.

7) He will help no one or complains sometimes when asked to help.

8) Experiences mood swings, high and low.


What does it feel like when you do not forgive another whom has hurt or offended you? You may feel intimidated by their presence. You may feel a sickness in your stomach whenever you think of them. You may wince at the mere mention of their name.You may feel a sudden welt of anger swell at the sight of them.

You figure after a time that the pain will go away, like the adage " Time is a good healer." But in fact, the pain is still there and some times gets worse.

Why is this? Because you have not forgiven them from the heart.

God calls on us to forgive, or He will not forgive you your sins.


Some of the ways in which we deal with a hidden hurt is to:

Grumble, complain & gossip.


Another way is to mull over the situation over & over & over again allowing the pain to get worse & worse.

Another way is to bury the pain, pretend it does not exist.

By doing this you have built up for yourself a defensive position,

a stronghold in which by mental & emotional means you feel protected from the one, whom have hurt you,

Or from others like them.

You say things to yourself like:

I'll never get involved with that person again. (or)

He let me down real bad. I'll never do business with him again.


The problem with building up for yourself a defensive stronghold is that it becomes your very own prison, in which you have locked yourself within, and the key is just on the other side of the wall, just slightly out of reach.

Another maybe more common way of dealing with offense is to get even.

You hurt me, I'll hurt you. That's the American way after all, is it not?

That's like what Elvis Presley said in a movie I watched many years ago.

He said: "Do unto others as they would have done unto you, except do it first”.

The only problem with these options when dealing with hurt is that one gets bitter on the inside, rather than getting better, & getting healed. The poison of bitterness festers like an opened wound and never really heals properly, and spreads like cancer. Rather than getting better, the unforgiving person gets worse and more and more bitter.

Heb. 12:14 & 15 tells us to "Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled." (King James Version)

One of the main causes of bitterness is insecurity within our lives where the seeds of offence are allowed to take root, and bear poisonous fruit.The results of allowing the root of bitterness, sown by the seed of un-forgiveness is mental, emotional & physical sickness and following that is afflictions of many kinds.

God has a cure, a way to dig out the roots and provide us with internal security, that we not be offended again. Let us see if we cannot understand a few principles of forgiveness.

Chapter 5-7 of Matthew has been rightly called the "Manifesto of the Kingdom", where Jesus spells out what life is like for the citizens in the Kingdom of God. Within this Manifesto is contained what is commonly referred to as "The Lord's Prayer."

Let us read together the Lord's Prayer. Matt. 6:9-15

In verse 12 we have the word debt, or debts. The sense behind this word is to "that which is legally due." And likewise in the word " debtor" we have the sense of one that has not yet made amends to one whom has injured another in one manner or another. Jesus makes it quite clear in these verses, that, if we do not forgive, then God will also not forgive us.

Elsewhere in scripture & a little later in the chronological life of Jesus one of the disciples approaches Jesus & asks Him to "teach us to pray." (Luke 11:1 King James Version).

If you read Luke 11:4 you read: "And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil."  (King James Version)

The word sin here translated from the Greek word " hamartia", has the sense of "Failing to reach the mark." God likewise sets up for us a standard by which we all miss the mark. When we miss this mark, it is called sin.

We to, inwardly set standards of how we feel others should treat us.

When others fail to reach that mark, we have the sense that we are owed something for being offended against, or to re-phrase it, we are sinned against. And according to Jesus, sin needs to be dealt with. John writes in 1 John 1:9: „If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (King James Version)

Do you see the problem here? There is an implication in these verses that if we do not forgive those who have offended us (whom are indebted to us), we still have sin in our heart, because the Lord has not forgiven us, for not forgiving others. And if we still have sin in our heart, there is no cleansing.

In Luke 6:35-37 Jesus again gives us more practical teaching about how to handle "Offense." He says: "But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven."  (King James Version)
The Greek word " apoluo" (ap-ol-oo'-o) used here for forgive in verse 37 literally means to "free fully". Other words used are " to relieve, release, dismiss, let die, pardon, let go, loose, put or send away, set at liberty.
The context then is to not just forgive, but to release them of the debt owed you.

Now, lets read the next verse. Luke 6:38 "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again." (King James Version)

Many have mistakenly thought that this verse is talking about money, which perhaps may fit.

But taken in context with the above verses of forgiving the thought becomes complete. In essence Jesus is saying that if you want to be forgiven, you yourself must forgive. If you want to be released you to must release those whom have hurt you and those whom have mistreated you. In the same measure that you forgive, God will likewise forgive you.

There are very many Christians walking about with un-forgiveness in their heart and cannot understand why their spiritual life has become so stale and why they do not seem to be growing spiritually.

Perhaps you are one of those people here tonight. Perhaps you do not even realize that you have been walking around for years without ever having forgiven someone whom has offended you. It might be a good idea to pray right now, this very moment & ask the Holy Spirit to point out to you where your heart truly is at.

And if you find that you are in need of forgiving someone, why not pray now asking God first of all to forgive you, then go out this evening and forgive the one who has offended you.


THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT Matthew 18:21- 35

In Matthew 18 Jesus tells a parable to explain what he had just told Peter about forgiveness. This parable is about settling accounts.
When others have hurt us we want to settle accounts by doing onto them what they have done to us.

Let us read verses 21 & 22 first Was Jesus saying that we should only forgive one 490 times, then on the 491st time smack them? No, he was saying that there is no limit to the number of times that we should forgive others who have done us wrong. Nor is He saying that we need to keep on forgiving the same person for the same offense over and over again. If you keep forgiving someone for the same offense, then you never really forgave him or her to begin with.

Does God keep account of sins? Again 1 John 1:9: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (King James Version)

Does God keep a record of all the times you have committed the same sins? Does He sit up there on His throne and say there's so & so, smoking again. I had better write that down and add it to the long list I already have. Boy, I tell you, if He kept a record of all our sins, we would sure be in some real trouble. No, God is not like that. Once we are forgiven, we are eternally forgiven. We are released; we are set free from the penalty of sins when confessed.

Likewise as we shall see in the following parable, forgiveness keeps no record, no account. True forgiveness forgives each time just as if it was the first time.


Let us read the parable of the unforgiving servant Matthew 18:23-35

Let me point out 5 things in regard to this parable.

1) The king knew fair well that the servant couldn't pay back what he owed. The parable is teaching a truth about our relationship with God& with others. We are in fact the servants who owed the king the ten thousand talents. And like the servant in the parable, we are unable to pay what we owe as a result of our sin. We as Christians call out to God for forgiveness and for mercy.

2) The king had compassion on this fellow and forgave him the debt. To truly forgive this man the debt owed, he had to totally release the man completely from the debt owed. If the king had merely just forgiven the servant, he would still owe the outstanding debt. And therefore the king would be able, at any time to say, come on pay up. For this man to experience true forgiveness he had to be released completely from the debt.

3) From the text we can likely surmise correctly, that the forgiven servant had already been owed money to him by the second servant of our story. Likewise, there were people whom had offended you before you became a Christian, whom you think, still have an outstanding debt to you. Have you forgiven them? Or do you still hold them to that debt you feel owed by them? Do you still harbor un-forgiveness over them?

4) It can be inferred from this parable also, that the king would have expected the forgiven servant to have mercy upon any whom owed him money. Was he merciful towards his servant? No! Did he forgive & release this second servant from the debt owed him? No! Again, are you still holding onto un-forgiveness to someone who has owed you since before you were born again? Or are you going to settle accounts here and now and release them of the debt you feel owed from them?

5) Lastly, the unforgiving servant was handed over to the torturers to extract every penny that was owed to the king. Jesus likewise promises that God the Father will likewise hold us to accounts if we do not forgive others from the heart.


SO HOW DO YOU SETTLE ACCOUNTS?

HOW DO YOU GET HEALED FROM DEEP WOUNDS?

The 1rst order of business is to do business with God.

You need to pray & ask the Holy Spirit to open up your heart & mind, to point out to you, areas of your life where you have been hurt and not truly forgiven. You need to ask God to allow you to become connected to that hurt that you have buried deep inside. This is the only way in fact in which you will be able to truly forgive from the heart, if you can identify the source of that hurt.

This must not be merely just an intellectual exercise. Because if you have forgiven only on a mental level, but leave the emotional level unchanged. Then all you have succeeded in doing is to satisfy yourself that you have done the right thing. But the pain in your heart remains, and you will not be healed.

Pride perhaps has been the reason why you haven't been able to forgive. If this is the case, then you will have to pray and repent of the sin of pride as well.

The next thing that you need to do is to make an invoice.

Write down on a piece of paper all the people whom have hurt you.

Write down exactly what it is that they have done to hurt you. Don't generalize, be specific. For example, don't write dad was a pain in my backside. Instead write the real issues like, never encouraged me when I did well at school, or kept getting on my case about my long hair, or kept telling my friends that I wet my bed when I was ten.
What this does is to help you identify and admit to yourself that these people owe you a debt for hurting you.

3rdly we need to count the cost of Forgiving, releasing them of this debt.

You need to realize that they can never pay back what you feel owed to you.

The king in the parable knew that the servant could never pay him back the debt owed to him. Likewise, we sinners could never pay back the debt we owe God. Could you or I ever pay back the debt that God paid for our ransom when He died on that cross so many years ago. Is there anything that you can do to pay for the nail scarred hands, the whiplashes, the thorny crown, the beard pulled out of his face.

We sing in Sunday school in the morning sometimes with the wee kids a song called "He Paid A Debt" The words go like this:

He paid a debt He did not owe

I owed a debt I could not pay

I needed someone to wash my sins away

Chorus

And now I sing a brand new song

Amazing grace all day long

Christ Jesus paid a debt

That I could never pay!

He paid a debt at Calvary

He cleansed my soul & set me free

I'm so glad that all my sins are washed away!

(„He Paid a Debt“ by G.McSpadden)


I ask you again. Can we pay the debt that we owe? How much has God forgiven you?

If you were to stop and think of what it cost God to forgive you of each and every sin, the cost of forgiving others would seem insignificant by comparison. Counting the cost also means to no longer have an emotional weapon against the person whom has hurt us. And at the same time you have to realize that you will once again become vulnerable to being hurt again, because your emotions will once again be made whole, and not seared.

Fourthly, have mercy upon them.

When you pray to God, let it be known to Him if you have felt you needed to revenge others for what they have done to you.
Unfortunately that is our natural, fleshly, sinful nature to want to make others feel the same pain and emotion that you felt when they hurt you. Determine in your heart, that if the opportunity presented itself, that you could walk up to them and show them mercy for what they have done to you.

Can you imagine what it would feel like if you looked at the person in the eye who killed you wife or kid and you could say in your heart, I forgive you?

Can you imagine the sense of relief they would have if you showed them mercy even if you had the power to do unto them what they did to you?

That's what God has done to us. He has shown us mercy by not holding us to the debt we owe Him for our sins.

Fifth. Forgive & Release those whom have hurt you.

To forgive someone is to release them from the debt they owe you.

When you forgive those that have hurt you, you set a prisoner free.
That prisoner is you.

Now, why do I say that? Resentment & bitterness hurts you, more than it hurts the other person. Job 5:2 spells it out well. It says "For wrath kills a foolish man,.." (New King James Version (NKJV) Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

Too many Christians are walking about saying that they cannot forgive a person that has hurt them. The result of that is that they do not have the joy in their life that they should be enjoying
because they are holding on to a grudge, refusing to let it go and allowing God to bring a healing into their lives. Hanging onto a grudge cannot change anything. No matter how much bitterness you have, you will never change what has happened. It won't change the past, nor will it help the present or the future.

The more you hang onto a grudge the more miserable you feel. While you are spending all your energy stewing up inside, the person you are upset with is walking about likely unaware of your anger and is enjoying themselves.

Resentment never hurts the other person. It only hurts you.

Research has shown that resentment has tremendous consequences. It can cause physical, emotional & spiritual consequences. We have all heard someone say about another: "he gives me a pain in the neck." It is quite true indeed. Bitterness can make you physically ill.

Here is an illustration.

A guy walks into the doctor's office and asks for some pills for his colitis.

The doctor replies by saying," Who are you colliding with now." S.I. McMillan wrote in a book called "None of These Diseases" "It's not what you have been eating, it's what is eating you." There are physical effects to bitterness.

Likewise there is an emotional effect as well. Depression is a result of bitterness Depression is the result of a depletion of emotional energy. Nothing depletes emotional energy faster than
resentment & bitterness.

So you must decide for yourself what you want to do. Do you want to get better, or do you want to get even?


Bitterness has a spiritual consequence as well.

In Mark 11:25 Jesus tells us: „And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." (New International Version, ©2011)
& verse 26 "But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses." (King James Version)
This is important to remember. Because God the Father forgives you as much as you forgive others.

A fellow approached John Wesley one time and said: "I could never forgive that person! Never! Wesley's reply was this: "Then I hope you never sin." If you refuse to forgive, you are burning the very bridge you've got to cross in order to get to heaven.

Forgiveness you see is not optional. It is a command. To forgive is to walk the Christian life. If we are unable to forgive, we neither will able to be forgiven. Because God has forgiven us, we to must learn to forgive others.

Bitterness you see just doesn't work. It is a waste of time & energy. It does not hurt the other person, but makes you physically, emotionally & spiritually sick. So learn to release so that you can be free from the poisonous grip of bitterness.

Here are a few more key verses to help you get over bitterness in your life and to move forward and be healed.

Romans 12:19: „Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.“ (King James Version)

Revenge belongs to God. Let Him settle the score.

Eph. 4:26 "Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath." (King James Version)

When you hang on to bitterness it eats you up and turns into hate.

If you have aught against another it is better to try to resolve it before going to bed at night where you are likely to just spend half the night stewing on it.

It is far better to go at once and make peace with your brother or sister. Eph. 4:32: "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." (King James Version)

How often has Christ forgiven you? Remember when He was on the cross. What did He say? He said," Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." Christ forgave them freely without waiting to be asked. He took the initiative, likewise so should you? We need to forgive others as often as need be, without waiting for them to ask for it, whether they want to or not,
whether they accept it or not.

Your job is to forgive and get over the resentment so that you can be healed and enjoy life. You'll never stop hurting until you forgive others who have hurt you. That's the key. That's what sets you free.

Let me point out what forgiveness is not. It is not pretending that nothing happened. Wishing that it didn't happen. Ignoring the hurt. Forgetting it.

That's a cop out. You say I forgive you. That releases them and it releases you. Forgiveness is not demanding that they change before you will forgive them. The Bible says you are to forgive as readily as God forgave us in Christ Jesus.

So how should we forgive? We should forgive the exact same way God forgives us. God forgives freely, instantly, completely, & continually. We are to learn to be Christ like. To be Christ like is to be forgiving.


Luke 6; 27,28 gives us this further command.

„But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you." (King James Version)

There are many more verses we could look at on the need to forgive. The key again is to forgive & release those who have hurt you and rest on Jesus the great physician who will take the Holy Ghost brush, using the water & soap of His Word & blood to cleanse those hidden wounds that have become infected. Let Him wash you freely with His blood and make you whole again.

Oh yes, one more thing. Remember that invoice. Rip it up and burn it and forget it.

God has set you free.

André

The Self Righteous Prodigal

To understand the Parables of Jesus, it is best to understand the culture of the day. In the story of the Prodigal Son, as it is best known, we need to read and study the entire chapter of Luke 15 to get the full context of the parable. This Parable is often taught leaving out the beginning of the chapter and also leaving out the very last part. To leave out either part is to teach an incomplete lesson and study.
     
So let’s read the entire chapter again for the first time, with an open mind, and see what the Lord may have to say to you today.
     
As we read the opening verses of this chapter, we see that many publicans and sinners have come to hear Jesus speak. Also present in this crowd were Pharisees and Saducees. Luke 15:1-2
     
The Pharisees were self righteous teachers of the religeous community, whom mostly gained their positions by bribery and big money. They were wealthy and they loved to Lord it over the common people, looking down their noses at them with disdain. The common people to them were the dregs of society.
     
The tax collectors, and the sinners to Jesus were represented as lost sheep who were in need of a Savior. To the average Israeli, the tax collectors were the most hated of all, for they worked for the Romans who were the oppressors. The tax collectors were corrupt, taking from the people more taxes than they should have. They were for that matter stealing from their own.
To the Pharisees the common people, including the tax collectors were considered religiously unclean.
     
Jesus in the eyes of all was considered to be a "Good Man."  Yet in the mind of the Pharisees, Jesus was also unclean because He hung out with the tax collectors, and the sinners, and the common people, so therefore He was guilty by association.
     
We too are often just as guilty as the Pharisees. We too often stay far away from the dregs of society. Anyone seen to be near them is considered to be unclean, unrighteous. We would rather if we could associate with the elite of society, with those who hold power and money. If we are seen with these types of folks, we think that we are a "Somebody."
     
In the culture of the day, to share a meal with somebody was to accept and approve of them. So when the Pharisees saw Jesus hanging out with these unclean, unrighteous persons, in their mind, He also was like them, and therefore could not be a "Good Man." Their prejudice is no different than many of us today. Look at yourself closely. Are you also a prejudicial Pharisee?
     
Jesus, as we know was not shy to confront these self righteous Pharisees. One of His favourite ways to confront them was by way of parables. And so Jesus tells these folks several parables, aimed straight as an arrow to their hearts to make them see what kind of men they really were and to make them see that they did not know God and His ways at all. Each of these parables is a reflection mirroring these Pharisees showing them not only their self righteousness, but also a window looking at and reflecting God the Father.
     
These Pharisees thought that they knew God very well, but Jesus was going to show them that they did not know Him at all. They did not understand the awesome love of that the Father has for the lost and how His heart breaks when one goes astray.
     
Through these three parables in chapter 15, we learn that it is God Himself who initiates His love towards us in that. While we are still yet sinners, Christ Jesus died for us. Rom. 8 It is He whom searches out for us, while we are yet still lost sinners, desiring us to draw close to Him.
     
The point of these three parables is not so much about a lost shepherd, nor a lost coin, nor a lost son, but about a searching, loving Father who searches to seek and to save they which are lost. Luke 19:10; Matt. 18:11

 
Now lets read Luke 15:11-24 about a Wayward Son and a searching Father.
     
We have all at one time or another searched desperately for something which is lost, like a wife’s ring, a lost child, car keys etc. If one loses a child at a carnival, the pain that a father or mother would feel would be comparable to the hurt and pain our Father in heaven must feel when one of us becomes lost, becomes a prodigal running away from Him. Who else but a parent could feel the anguish of a lost child like our Father? We read how Jesus wept over Jerusalem as they continually turned away from Him, Matt. 23:37.That is how much He loves us.
     
The young prodigal son we being very self-centered when he asked his father for his inheritance. To hear such a request as this from a son whom he loved, was like hearing that your son was wishing you to be dead. The father likely tried to talk some sense into his sons head, and he also likely knew exactly what the boy would do with all this money. Eventually the father relented to the sons request and let him go. We today would refer to this as tough love. Sometimes a parent has to to let a son or daughter go their own way so that they can learn the error of their ways on their own, the hard way.
 
And so we read how the boy gathered up his inheritance and belongs and left for a far off country living a harlotous life boozing it up and throwing his money around like a big shot until it all ran out. And we learn that a famine came upon the country and he became hungry. He sought out a way to get food and money, but the best offered to him was working with pigs and eating the same scraps they got. This would have been terribly degrading, especially to a Jew. During a time of famine pigs would have been of more value than people, so  all the people turned their backs on him and gave him nothing.
     
Had the story ended here, the Pharisees would have said that he got just what he deserved. Fortunately, our Father is not like that. He wishes us to repent and coming running back to Him.
     
With his stomach grumbling, ragged and filthy, the son we read comes to his senses and realizes what a fool he had been. He realizes that he not only sinned against his own earthly father, but also again the Father in heaven. Unfortunately we often need to fall into the pig pen, to hit rock bottom before we come to our senses, repent and turn back to God.
     
We can know for sure the boy was sincere in how he felt because he did not desire to return to his father as a son, but as a meager hired servant. Do we not also feel that at times we are unworthy of the Father when we have sinned?
     
Thankfully our God's love for us is so great that He will not leave us in the dumps.
     
In true humiliation, the prodigal son returns home, hungry, likely smelling like the pigs, dirty, degraded with his head bowed rehearsing what he would say to his father.                                       
     
Many an earthly father would perhaps look up to their approaching prodigal son with disgust. But our Father who is represented in this parable as the boy’s father does not do that. Our Father in heaven does not shut us out, does not turn His back on us while we still draw breath. He awaits for us patiently, wooing us, searching for us, looking for us daily awaiting for us to repent, come to our senses and return to Him.
     
So it is, as in the story, the father does not just stand there on the door step when he sees the boy coming. But he runs with outstretched arms eager to hug us and welcome us home, even before the son has expressed his repentance. Our Father needs not wait to hear from our lips to know that we have repented. He already knows our heart. And yes, just as in the story, there is a party. Like wise when one on earth repents and comes to the Father, there is great joy in heaven.
     
In Middle East culture, older men do not run, nor do we ever see the elite run with emotion in our culture today. But this father runs to his son and immediately after embracing the boy he calls for a party. Bring out the best calf, a robe and sandals, "my son which was lost is found he says."
     
The father in this story brought out his best to honour his repentant, prodigal son. Our Father also gave His best when He gave His Son for us when were also lost. The son was once again recognized as a heir to the father's estate as we are to our Father in heaven.
     
The father was not treating his son so well because he deserved it, but because he loved him so much. He went out of his way showing grace and mercy upon the once wayward son.
     
God our Father likewise does not dispose grace and mercy upon us because we deserve it or because of anything we have done. He gives because He loves us so much. John 3:16
     
This is a God who runs and embraces, who accepts the filthy prodigal sons when they run and turn back to Him. This is a God who calls for a party in heaven, who cries out; "Welcome, welcome home!" (see Luke 15:7)
     
This is a God the Pharisees did not know and understand. That is why the story does not end here, but continues on to the end of the chapter. This ending part is the real key to this story.
     
Allow me suggest that the prodigal son represents the tax collectors and the sinners around Jesus. These folks know that they are lost and in need of a Savior. They are willing at least to come and sit at his feet and to listen to His teachings. And the angry elder son represents the hard nosed, know it all, non seeking Pharisees.
     
At first look the elder son looks like the respectable son, who is hard working, always obeying his father. He seemingly was doing the right thing. But may I suggest that his relationship with his father was likely strained. His righteousness was masked by the law, doing right outwardly, but perhaps inwardly rebelling against the father. The Pharisees also appear to have a form of godliness, but Jesus chastised them another time calling them blind guides, white sepulchers. Read Matt. 23:1-36; Luke 11:39-44. Jesus unmasked their self righteousness, those who thought they knew the Father and were doing His work. But, they were far, far from the Lord.
     
The elder son, upon hearing the celebration was angered and his thoughts towards his brother, rather than being joyful at his return, was anger and jealous. He was so angry that he refused to go to the party even after his father had pleaded with him to come and join the party and enjoy.
     
His rebelliousness would have been an insult to his father. This is like a teen picking a fight with a parent. It was terribly disrespectful. It was his duty to go and join in the celebration with his father. He chose to not even have fellowship with his father because the father had thrown a party for the one whom had lived with pigs, partied it up, losing all his money.
     
The Pharisees likewise chose to not have fellowship with Jesus, because Jesus fellowshipped with the dregs of society. They like the elder son chose to stay outside of the Fathers house. When one refuses to accept what the Father offers, what He accepts, it reveals ones true heart relationship to God.
     
Still the father pleads to the elder son, because he likewise loves his elder son as much as he loves the younger son. But for all his pleading, it was to no avail.
     
The elder brother contempt for his father showed clearly the true nature of his heart, just as the Pharisees had contempt for Jesus. Their hearts were far from God. Though the elder son worked hard for his father, he did not share his father’s heart. When he says: "This son of yours" (Luk 15: 30 New International Version ©2011), he clearly shows he neither loved his brother, nor his father.
     
His final statements show how self serving he really was, how self-righteous he truly was. He was not joyful of being the recipient of his fathers love. In reality, he like the Pharisees was far further from the Father than was the prodigal son.
     
Never-the-less, this father portrays the love of our Father God, despite the elders disrespectful outburst. He continues to plead to the elder son to come and join in and share the joy that the father has for him, for us. He is a gracious, merciful Father who perseveres, who holds out hope, pleading for us to come close to Him, despite our failures, despite our sins.
     
When our Father sees a repentant sinner returning, He cannot of Himself cancel the party, cancel His love for us who are all prodigals.
     
Jesus was showing these self righteous Pharisees His deity and God's grace. That after all is the true theme of this story.
          
This is yet one other part of this story which is still missing. from this story, we never really learn if the elder son ever repented. Did he enter or did he not? The end of the story leaves us ah ging. Likely as not he did not enter the joy of the Lord.
     
This is the sin of the Pharisees. As long as they do not enter into and accept the grace of the Father, they are left on the outside. Our Father offers us grace and mercy and eternal life. If we do not enter in, and accept His offer of the forgiveness of our sins and salvation, we will not enter in to His joy and rest.
     
If we cannot see the need for grace for others, how will we ever see the need for grace and mercy for ourselves. To do so is to forfiet fellowship with the Father. The Pharisees likewise remain outside as long as they have contempt for the least of these.
     
Whether you are in a far country and have fallen to the the bottom, to the very dregs of the barrel, or if you are standing on the outside, the Father is still calling, "Come on In, Come home."
     
How we relate to others, reveals how we relate to God. He aches and cries for you every day to come. Will you not come on in and enjoy His blessings, enjoy the rest He has prepared for you?
     
I am reminded of the hymn "Just As I am" Please come just as you are and enter the party and homecoming He has preparing for you. Will you?
     
andré

Are You Ready to Forgive?

Are you ready to forgive?


The importance of forgiveness in biblical counseling
(and in everybody’s life)




Table of Contents




1. Introduction                                     

2. Something bad happens                               

3. First effects: the damage done and the way out of this: forgiving                

4. How do you do it then, forgiving? What does it mean?                    

5. Forgiving your partner                                    

6. Results of forgiveness                                    

7. What can go wrong?                                    

8. If there is forgiveness, there must have been guilt or sin                    

9. Reconciliation                                        

10. Confess your sins                                    

11. How can you ever forgive really bad sins?                        

12. Conclusion – resist the devil, face temptation!                        

13. Bibliography                                        


1. Introduction

“Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the Lord of the servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him a hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his Lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” St. Matthew 18:23-35 (KJV)



Brothers and sisters, I am talking about forgiveness. I want to make you understand the importance of forgiving. If you don’t forgive, you sin. You choose the wrong way. The first consequences: You start to find excuses if you do wrong and you try to draw as much attention as possible. Then you will seek domination, influence, power, also revenge for those who did you wrong. You might not even notice your true motivation as you are hiding it from yourself, from others and from God.


Here a quick check-up to find out if you have wrong goals, if your motivation is wrong and dominated by selfishness, ambition, anger and revenge:

Have you ever tried to find excuses if you’re feeling trapped?
Are you sometimes playing the blame game?
Are you afraid that others might notice where you are not so perfect?
Do you hate to justify?
Do you love to be seen, to play an important role, to be the centre of attention – and hide that behind religious phrases?
How much ambition and selfishness is inside of you when you preach or talk in front of others?
Do you sometimes take other’s responsibilities to make a good impression?
Do you love to be seen?
Do you always want to be right?
Do you always have to be there to control everything?
Have you ever thought of committing suicide or hurting yourself in order to punish someone?
Have you ever used sex or no sex as an instrument to punish someone?
Have you ever used your child as an instrument against your partner?
Have you ever prayed against someone or had that wish in your heart that something really bad happens to him?
Do you have problems in forgetting when you’ve been hurt? Do you always come up with the same ole’ stories?

Go inside! Check yourself! Read the bible and pray the Holy Spirit will make you see your true motivation and get back on track again! Don’t break your relationship with God by rebelling against Him, missing His goals or trying to be like Him!


Sometimes it’s so easy to see someone else’s sin. In Matthew 7:5 (KJV) we read: “Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the moth out of thy brother’s eye.”



So let’s focus on that thing called forgiveness and see why it is so important and how it should be done.




2. Something bad happens


“You must not think I am unhappy. What is happiness and unhappiness? It depends so little on the circumstances; it depends really only on that which happens inside a person.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Lutheran Pastor, Theologian, and opponent of Nazism)


I am sure everyone of you can relate to those feelings: Somebody did wrong to you. Really wrong. And you think: well, now God will let the hammer fall on him.

But it doesn’t happen. That guy might even live a good life, have lots of money, a big apartment and a hot girlfriend while you still suffer. Ain’t that crying injustice? Where is God when you need him most? You get more and more angry everyday, you start to pray against that guy and you hope something really bad is going to happen to him.

But it doesn’t! You’re getting nightmares, you start getting embittered and full of hatred against the whole world. What’s wrong here?


Or you might have had a bad childhood. Parents who didn’t pay attention to you, growing up without love, without someone who takes you in his arms and tells you it’s gonna be alright while you were coming home crying. Maybe your parents even beat you up, your daddy was a drunkard or they divorced. Maybe you were even abused as a child.

For the rest of your life you  might feel like a victim. Whenever something bad happens to you or you fail in something, your bad childhood is to blame for it. What is wrong in here?

Let’s take a look at St. Luke 6:37: “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shalt be forgiven.” (KJV).

What? But they hurt me! How can you ever forgive that? Ain’t there justice in this world? Ain’t there any hope of ever getting out of this nightmare?


Yes, there is. You might have been hurt lately, but there is hope. Hope in Jesus! He will remove your burdens, he will give your heart peace again. Just let loose, forgive and let God be the judge.
Matthew 11:28-29 (KJV) tells us: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
Jesus also promises: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee”. (Hebrews 13:5 KJV).


Don’t let Satan steal one more moment of the joy that God has set before you! Don’t let him control you life! Don’t let your present behavior reflect bad experiences of your past!




3. First effects: the damage done and the way out of this: forgiving


“Reality thinking is not “Why me?” Reality thinking is “Now what?” (Robert H. Schuller).


This is the first important thing to realize: The way we handle those bad experiences will have influence on our state of health, our emotions, our mind and our hearts.

Once your heart gets really hurt and you are not able to deal with it in a biblical manner, you will get embittered or loose your self-esteem. Nightmares will begin to haunt you. Our not being able to forgive will also break our fellowship with God and make our prayers powerless.

Well, how do you forgive then? Have you ever said things like: “I forgive you, but I will never be able to forget it, even if I live to see a hundred years”. Is that forgiving?

Maybe you think God will understand that you can’t forget or even forgive, as what has happened to you is so bad He simply HAS to understand that!

Maybe you think the guy who did that to you might think what he has done is alright because you just forgave him. Will the crime even be accepted this way?

Well, God will NOT understand that and forgiving does NOT approve of the offense!

It might be very tempting to feel like a victim, drown in self-pity or even feel you are so right – but like that you’re making the problem much bigger and it will haunt you for good. Self-pity equals selfishness. And selfishness will destroy you and opens your heart for the devil!

It might be very tempting not to forgive and maybe you even give in to that and keep that self-pity, anger, hatred, grudge and lust for vengeance in your heart. To give in to sin.

David Seamands tells us in his book “Freedom from the Performance trap”: “Sometimes God seeks us by letting us go. Letting us go our own way and allowing us to suffer inevitable consequences of that way in the hope that our suffering will bring us back to Him.”

So – in the end there is no alternative than to follow the Lord. To forgive. Amen?


How about the Lord himself? Is there any sin God would never forgive? Let’s take a look on St. Matthew 12:31-32: Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” (KJV).


Remember also that as long as someone does not believe in the Lord, he cannot be forgiven!




4. How do you do it then, forgiving? What does it mean?

“Turn your hurts inside out and… turn the problem into a project, the enemy into a friend, the hurt into a halo, the scar into a star.” (Robert H. Schuller)


“Forgiveness is foremost an act of God’s grace to forget forever and not hold penitent Christians accountable for sins that they confess (I John 1:7-10). To a lesser degree, forgiveness is the gracious human act of not holding wrong acts against a person. Forgiveness, then, has both divine and human dimensions. In the divine relationship, it is, first of all, the gracious act of God by which believers, who come in obedience to G His plan of salvation, are put into a right relationship to God and, thereby, transferred from spiritual death to spiritual life through the sacrificial offering of the blood of Jesus Christ. It is also, in this divine demonstration, the ongoing gift of God without which we as the once-saved would be lost. In terms of a human dimension, forgiveness is that act and attitude toward those penitent ones (Luke 17:3) who have wronged us which restores relationships and fellowship. A biblical example or how God forgives (and we should forgive one another) is set forth in Luke 15:11-32”. (David A. Amos on www.church-of-christ.org).

He explains God’s plan of salvation like that: “God gave us two laws of pardon that result in His forgiveness! One is for the alien sinner (one who has never known Christ). The first law of pardon is: (1) Hearing the Gospel – John 6:44-45; Romans 10:17; (2) Believing in Christ – John 8:24, Mark 16:16; (3) Repent of sins – Acts 2:38; Acts 17:30; (4) Confessing Christ – Romans 10:9-10; be baptized (immersed in water) – Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38. After doing these things, God will add one to His church (Acts 2:47). He must then be faithful unto death (Revelation 2:10). The second law of pardon is only for Christians who have fallen away from Christ in sin. It is set forth in Acts 8:22, “Repent and pray God”.”


Let’s start with the steps of forgiveness:

First: seek forgiveness yourself. Where have you hurt others?

Let’s focus on three of the hardest things to say: “I am sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me”.

Or as Elton John said it: “Sorry seems to be the hardest word”.

Jesus told us: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. ” (Matthew 5:23-24 NIV).

Second: Forgive everyone who has hurt you.

That may be really hard, but it’s possible. But forgiving does NOT mean you can let everybody walk over you. Proverb says: “a prudent man sees danger and rakes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 22:3 NIV).

So – if somebody really hurts you bad or stresses you out or gets on your nerves: get away from him!

Dick Innes said in his book “You can’t fly with a broken wing” (on www.actscom.com/store): “Nowhere does it say that we are to allow toxic people to dump their poison on us.”

So – separate from them and forgive.

Another important point: you don’t have to like everybody. That’s impossible. But you have to love them.

What? Love?? Yeah, and sometimes it’s a tough love. You do most of it for others. You can’t trust everybody to be loving and kind or at least not be mean and cruel.

Even Jesus didn’t trust everybody as we read in John: “But Jesus didn’t trust them, for he knew mankind to the core. No one needed to tell him how changeable human nature is.” John 2:24-25 (TLB).

In McMillen’s book “None of These Diseases” we hear: ”If selfish people try to take advantage of you, cross them off your list, but don’t try to get even. When you try to get even, you hurt yourself more than you hurt the other fellow.”
You also have to free yourself from the past. Don’t let yourself be imprisoned by the past. Don’t yield to another’s control by not forgiving.

Also don’t drown in self-pity. You might have had a hard childhood – but don’t use that as an excuse for everything bad you are doing now. You’ve grown up. Stop feeling and behaving like a victim. Take control over your life. Don’t play somebody else’s game – like act and response, outrage and revenge, tit for tat.

Forgiving is especially important in relationship or family affairs. If you don’t forgive there, you build up a wall of resentment and you get strangers. Forgive and you can get friends again and restore love feelings between you. At least you can say you did your thing to improve the situation. Also don’t forget you are a role model for your children or for somebody else’s children.

Make also sure your forgiveness is genuine and comes from the heart. Don’t let it get down to be something that is done because of religious or sentimental reasons as it’s the “right thing to do”. If it is not genuine, resentment will come back again with a vengeance. Ever watched a couple fighting and one of them comes up with something that happened years ago? Well, obviously it hasn’t been forgiven then. Let go! Forgive and leave the past behind!

You should be aware, however, that forgiveness is a process. It doesn’t happen with a snap of your fingers. What do you have to do to get through it? First, you got to admit what happened. Don’t deny the facts. Don’t tell yourself this is just a nightmare that will be over tomorrow. Admit that you’ve been hurt. The truth will set you free then.

Then, of course, you have to confront the person who did that to you with the situation. Maybe someone that you love hurt you – go ahead and confront him! Don’t nurse your anger! That does NOT mean you should attack the other guy or play the blame game. So rather use sentences like “I feel angry and sad about what you did to me” than “You did this although you knew what you would destroy!”. Rather use “I-sentences” than “You-sentences”. Be really honest and tell them how you feel. You got to get rid of those bad feelings. Don’t start to hurt the other guy, but “speak the truth in love” as Ephesians 4:15 tells us. If it’s not appropriate to address the other person in words you might also write your feelings down. Write a letter to that person – and tear it up! If you want to send it – never send the first draft. When it comes to feelings, when you really have to sort them out, you’ll probably need more drafts.

Notice also that forgiveness does NOT ignore justice. Remember Pope John Paul forgiving his would-be assassin? In spite of that, this man stayed in prison. If you want somebody else to forgive you, you also have to make a just restitution. It’s not enough to say you’re sorry for having stolen his car, you also got to give it back.

Let’s skip to another topic: While it’s easy to forgive someone who says he’s sorry, it’s kind of supernatural to forgive a guy who wouldn’t even admit he wronged you or just doesn’t care. Or maybe he even hurt you on purpose. What are you going to do now?

Some would tell you now forgiveness is not possible if the other part doesn’t admit he was wrong, says he’s sorry and makes good for it. This is wrong!! Don’t let anybody contaminate you with that! It is easy to love those who love you – but it is way harder to love those who hurt you or even hate you! But that is exactly what a Christian should do! Show the grace to forgive, maybe this will pave the way for the other person’s return!

So – forgiveness is always a choice you can take.

Also notice that forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. While you should always forgive, sometimes reconciliation is not possible. Why? Because for reconciliation it takes a mutual desire to do that and a response of the other part.

If they don’t see they have done something wrong and ask for forgiveness, there is no way for reconciliation.
But you should also know that reconciliation is not needed for your healing. Only forgiveness on your part is. Neither do you have to forget. But don’t use that as a bad excuse like in “I can forgive you, but I can’t forget what you have done” – that means nothing else than you can’t forgive either.

So resolve and let go of the resentment you have towards someone who did you wrong. If you don’t, the grudge will stay for good. You might even say you forgive, but when it doesn’t reach your heart you just push those negative feelings back. Be sure, however, that they will return! They will harm your health, deaden your joy and affect present or future relationships.

So – how long will it take to resolve those bad feelings? Well, till they’re gone, till you stopped crying or being angry. Ever heard the saying: Time heals all wounds? Forget it! If you don’t work on your recovery, you remain stuck in your bad emotions. This process of recovery will take time. At the end comes the healing.

Also resolve those problems before you start a new relationship. Don’t carry that ole’ bag with you.

Let’s come to subject four: Forgiveness from God. Complete healing doesn’t take just to forgive everyone who wronged you – you also need to experience God’s forgiveness. If we confess or sins to him, he will grant us complete pardon.

So forgiveness frees the one who forgives and the one who has been forgiven and accepted that forgiveness.


Let’s go back to the parable of the beginning. Forgiveness has two sides: what it really means to forgive and what this forgiving will do for you and those whom you forgive. And last but not least your willingness to forgive affects your fellowship in prayer with the Father.

First, forgiveness is not just an emotional thing. You simply say you are not holding any claims against the debtor anymore. Like the bank where you took up a credit and that tells you now: forget about it, you’re at “zero” again.

Later on, we might want to go back to it and feel the anger and the wish for vengeance come back. But no way! Forgiven is forgiven! We will need the Holy Spirit’s assistance then to recall that very moment we forgave our debtor!
So, whenever Satan tries to tempt you to forget about your forgiveness and give that guy that did wrong to you a hard time, hold your chin up, face him and say: NO! I chose to forgive and I refuse to go back on my decision!

Also pray to the Lord! Pray constantly and ask the Lord for guidance. James 5:16 says: “The earnest prayer of a righteous man has great power and wonderful results” (TLB). Amen!

Forgiveness does in no way mean you approve of bad things! Nor is forgiveness the same as reconciliation or restitution! Sure, that would be great, but it’s not the same! But remember one thing: forgiveness DOES pave the way for reconciliation or restitution!

So – if you ever want to have peace in your heart and end this bitterness on the inside: FORGIVE!

But you better be sure you forgive because you love the Lord. Never ever think you’re better than the other person! The Phillippians tells us in 2:1-3 not to do anything out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility should we consider others better than ourselves.


What does forgiveness mean for us – and the other guy involved?
First, that guy can’t use you as a bad excuse no more. He can’t say: “Well, I would like to change, my life could be so much different, but he simply won’t forgive me!”

Remember one thing: if you do not forgive, the case is in your courtroom. If you do forgive, you give it over to God! So – don’t try to make yourself higher than God himself!


What if someone terribly wrongs me? St. Matthew tells us in 18:15-19 to go and show that guy his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you got him back on track. If he doesn’t, go and get some witnesses to testimony to try it again. The plan, of course, is restoration, reconciliation and healing.


Have you ever asked yourself why people who did so much wrong still seem to prosper? Well, that’s exactly why: you didn’t forgive. You were afraid to because  you thought God might not punish him like he should be punished. Now it’s eating you up.

If you forgive, however, you say: Dear heavenly Father, I give this person over to you. Treat him like I would want to be treated in his case. I have no claims anymore. I set him free.

In Romans 12:19-21 (KJV) we read: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Also make sure your heart is into it when you forgive. One of my favurites, 1 Corinthians 13 verse 1-13 we read about love, the most important thing in everything you do. Even if you say things in the right way, if you do good and have a strong faith – it serves you nothing if you don’t have love.


Love – the key word of Christianity.


Love.


Nothing but love.



“Your hurt may still be alive tomorrow… but it will be changed. Your hurt will change because your attitude and your perception are changing”. (Robert H. Schuller)




5. Forgiving your partner


Let’s talk about forgiveness and partnership now. Forgiveness is the key to a successful partnership. It sure is not easy and will take some time, especially if your partner really hurt you. Forgiveness also means to quit some of those old habits. It’s the first step to change something for the better, to reach out your hand for reconciliation, to show some trust and meaning it. You have to overcome bitterness and anger, you got to stop paying back in kind in order to have a long-term great relationship!

Maybe you even have to change your attitude, your way of thinking and acting. But most of all you have to learn to forgive with your heart – not just with your words.

And please: if you refuse to forgive, don’t try to make it sound good by finding all kinds of excuses.


An excuse is a reason stuffed with a lie!


There ain’t no excuse for sin. And not to forgive is a sin!


Let’s not forget one thing: If something bad happened, two persons were involved and two persons are to blame. Even if someone commits adultery, in most cases it wasn’t for no reason. It might have been some sort of revenge or madness or disillusionment – whatever. That doesn’t make the sin better, but it does mean forgiveness is a mutual task.

And again: forgiveness has to be done completely – without any “if’s” and “but’s” and without arrogance and vanity that makes you think you are something better.

You might think now: how am I gonna do it? He did so much wrong to me, he treated me so badly – how can I ever manage to get along with him?



Jesus taught us to live one day at a time. So – focus on today. Tomorrow is another day.


6. Results of forgiveness

If you don’t forgive, you still believe the other guy deserves to be punished hard. You want to somehow balance the scales.
But if you do forgive, you’re released from that debt. You’re free. As Romans 13:8 says: From now on, you owe that guy nothing but love!

If you forgive, you also fully rely on the Lord who meets all of your needs! Someone who can’t forgive still somehow feels the other guy holds the keys to his happiness, joy and success. You still want something from that guy. Something that God above cannot provide.

Read Collossians: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

Or my personal favourite: Psalm 23 (KJV):

“The Lord is my Shepard; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

Wow! Ain’t that great! You don’t need that bad guy to pay you for anything in the world: you got the Lord! Amen!

Forgiveness will also allow you to minister and fellowship again. If you don’t forgive and stay angry and embittered, God will take you out of the whole thing for some time. Church people won’t call you anymore, they might even avoid you. You’re sort of useless. Dr. Tom Elliff once said: “Why should He exalt someone whose life is a direct contradiction to what He wants others to see in Himself – His love and forgiveness?”

Like the unforgiving guy in our parable from the beginning: he was thrown into prison and thus rendered useless and ineffective.

Forgiveness relieves us from torment. It delivers us from those who do us wrong. If you don’t forgive, your agony will stay for good. Like the guy in the parable was given over to the torturers.

Remember: If you don’t forgive, you are the one who suffers most from your bitterness.

Forgive and you will be released from that torture.


In psalm 66:18 (KJV) we read: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”

Your prayer will remain without power if you refuse to forgive. That refusal is a sin – you’re in no way better than the other guy then!

So – what can I do other than to forgive to heal my wounds? Remember we pray that the Lord may give us our “daily bread” – and that’s nothing else than the Word of God. Read it everyday and rejoice in it! Once you lay it aside you get vulnerable for Satan’s plans!

So: forgive and get to know the restorative power of forgiveness! Refuse to forgive and you will have living hell!

Robert Jefress once cited a national survey by the George Barna Group in which four out of 10 Americans said they were currently having difficulties forgiving someone who had wronged them. “As many of those people were Christians as non-Christians”, he said.
“Forgiveness is not the prefered choice of most Christians. If becoming a Christian were the only requirement for being a forgiver, then our churches would be filled with loving and forgiving people. Despite worldly standards Christians must forgive on the basis of grace, not justice. Forgiveness is not earned; it is granted.” (Baptist news; www.sbc.net).

And on he goes: “When you demand that your offender do something before you forgive him or her, you are binding yourself to that person.”


Forgiveness will free you.




7. What can go wrong?

Some think repentance of the other guy is a condition for my forgiveness. This is wrong. Also forgiveness does not free the bad guy from possible consequences. But leave that up to the Lord!

Also, don’t confuse forgiveness with reconciliation or forgetting. We already spoke about that.

If you say: “I will forgive you because Jesus tells us to, but I can’t trust you anymore”, you simply say you neither trust nor forgive that person.

Or: “I forgive your adultery, but we can’t have sex for the next months” it means nothing else than you didn’t fully forgive.

Or: “I forgive you, but I don’t think you will change” -  you are not really serious and don’t really believe in God’s forgiveness. You do forgive, but you think you are something better, because your morals or spirituality are better. That is hypocrite!

So: stop forgiving with “but’s”!

Remember: if you nurse the grudge, anger and resentment too long in your heart, it will cause sickness and disease.

Somebody once said: “Failing to forgive is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

Failing to forgive will have bad effects on your emotional, spiritual and physical state of health.

Examples: Ulcerative colitis, toxic goiters, high blood pressure” (Dr. McMillen).

Jesus said: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25 NIV).


Please don’t give in to anger, hatred, lust for vengeance, violence and so on, even if temptation to do so might be there. But that will lead to nothing good. Never ever.


Don’t throw away tomorrow!




8. If there is forgiveness, there must have been guilt or sin


If there is such a thing as forgiveness, there must have been guilt, too.

Let’s go back in time.

In the Old Testament guilt equalled breaking the bond with God. Guilt or sin – that meant disrespecting a duty. A duty as the ten commandments that God gave us. If through idolatry, adultery or whatever this bond was broken, you had to sacrifice something to restore it.

In the course of a year there was a lot of sinning, so the high priest took those sins from the people, put them on a scape goat and chased it into the desert.

Good ole’ times, right?

The New Testament changed a lot: Jesus showed us that no man can be delivered from his sin on his own. This can only be done if God forgives us. How do you get to this point? You got to fully acknowledge and repent your sins.

Jesus died on the cross for us to be free. He didn’t have any sins of his own, he died for OUR sins. Whatever human beings have done or will do is now forgiven if you reach out and take Jesus’ hand.

Imagine that: you are forgiven! Not just 50 % of your debts, but everything bad you’ve ever done! Don’t you think you could be just a little thankful for that? Don’t you think you should show a little effort and try to be like Jesus? You are forgiven a hundred per cent – so how can you even think of not forgiving someone who did wrong to you?

If you sin, you go astray. You’re leaving the way that God told you to go. You revolt against Him and destroy human community. You try to be God and you act like the lost son in the parable. You’re not thankful that Jesus died for you – you even spit on him.

Sin will lead to death. Sin is always guilt. Jesus, however, can give you life – eternal life!

While sin is a biblical expression, guilt is more often used in psychology, so don’t get confused.


Let’s go back to the start: someone sinned against you. It’s your duty as a Christian now to forgive. FULLY forgive – without any “but’s” and “if’s”.




9. Reconciliation


Forgiveness requires a triple reconciliation: with God, with the offender that did you wrong and with yourself. Forgiveness paves the way for reconciliation – but it is NOT the same!

Forgiveness sometimes is a long, slow and painful process. You have been hurt and the wound goes deep down inside. But not to forgive will be the dagger in your heart that makes this wound even bigger and bigger.

Also reconciliation might be a very long and painful process. But there is simply no alternative! If you don’t forgive and make way for reconciliation, the Lord will give you over to the torturers like in the parable. You will suffer immensely. You become desperate, depressed, sad, angry, suicidal, neurotic, physically or mentally ill or even dangerous to society.

Jesus often mentioned sickness and sin in one sentence. That does NOT mean every disease has been caused by sin. But the original cause of disease has been sin – so far it is true. When Eve gave Adam the apple and he took it, paradise was lost for us and diseases started. Without Adam and Eve’s first breaking God’s rule there would be no disease.

And not to forgive is a sin, so we will have to face the consequences.

Remember, however, that you have to face illness and other problems in your life because of the fallen state of our world (Adam and Eve), not just because you sinned and get punished for that. The children in the third-world-countries have not sinned, yet they starve.

If you go and see a psychologist these days, he will tell you go ahead and do whatever you want to do as long as it’s legal and you don’t hurt anyone.

If you’re a Christian, things are not as easy as that. The bible is number one – it’s God’s word and we have to live according to it.

So – whenever something is AGAINST the bible, it’s wrong. You can call it science or whatever then. It is wrong.

And not to forgive sure is as wrong as can be. A lot of psychological problems are due to an inner conflict that has not been solved yet. Like someone did you wrong and you can’t forget or forgive.

You can go and get some of those pills to make you high for a couple of hours and forget about things for a while.

Or you go and settle things in Jesus’ way: forgive the offender, even if this is really hard to do. For a Christian, this is the ONLY way to find peace on the inside again.

Peace in Jesus. Amen!

So – stop listening to feelings, emotions, inner voices, your head or just a street-smart guy -  listen to God’s word.

The object of life is not personal happiness, but following Jesus!



10. Confess your sins


Another important thing to do: confess your own sins to others. In James 5:16 we read: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”


Confessing your sins will make you clean inside out!


If you want to forgive, you have to also ask yourself: am I to blame, too, for whatever someone did to me? Maybe he would have never done it if I hadn’t done something wrong, too!

Sometimes you might also think of your own sins. Maybe you have done some real bad sins and you can’t get over it. It’s eating you up. You know the Lord has forgiven you, but you simply can’t forgive yourself. Does that sound familiar to you? If you think like that, you’re placing yourself ON TOP OF GOD! You want to be more just, more righteous than He is! Have you ever seen things this way?

If you can’t forgive yourself, you’re subject to manipulation by others and incredible tortures in your heart. Life is an agony. Wherever something bad happens to you, you think you deserved it. And you are even looking for punishments – by others or by yourself. If you can’t forgive yourself or others, you will drown in self-pity. But remember one thing: self-pity is always selfish!

You want to draw attention and you focus way too much on yourself instead of following Jesus. You are looking for personal happiness that you will never find, as it doesn’t exist. That’s rather a by-product of living a life according to the bible. Follow Jesus and He will give you joy – that’s a lot more than just “being happy”!


11. How can you ever forgive really bad sins?

Maybe you think now: What nonsense! How can you ever forgive if someone did incredible things to you?

When Jesus was crucified, he prayed: “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34).

Stephen pleaded “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60) as the stones battered his body.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer asked for forgiveness for the German nation, while actively resisting Hitler. He paid the highest price you can pay: he died for his conviction.

One thing is for sure: biblical forgiveness ain’t easy! The costs for that are high! Biblical forgiveness also is not something that works by itself. Only God can forgive sins. Eternal forgiveness is available only from God, because sin is against God alone. Jesus, too, had the power to forgive sins. He even paid with His own life to free us from our sins! He took all of our sins upon Himself and atoned for it with His blood.

The reason why we can forgive is Jesus’ delegation of authority. We’re Christians and we got the key to forgive. So use that key!

We cannot forgive sins by our own power, but we can forgive the sins or others. Like that we can show them the eternal forgiveness they can reach through Jesus Christ. We even HAVE to do that! As the Lord’s Prayer says: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors”.

Because of His grace we are enabled from the heart to forgive others!

Nobody says it’s going to be easy to forgive. While it seems like everything is forgiven, the next day it will hurt even more. The sadness, anger, hatred, jealousy, depression and lust for vengeance will return.

The road might be very long. Long and full of hurtful moments. But we must walk that road and we don’t need to walk it all alone. Jesus is always by our side. Also remember that all of us have to walk that road. It might be easier for some of us, but for sure we all have to walk it all the way through.


John Powell describes in “Happiness is an inside job” Jesus, the Good Shepard: “I have to keep remembering that he is looking for us lost sheep and rejoicing when he finds us (…) He takes me into his arms and sobs in relief, “You’re home. You know, that’s all I’ve ever wanted. You’re home.”



12. Conclusion – resist the devil, face temptation!

Psalm 130:3-4 tells us: “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.”

And on in Psalm 32:1: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”

And if you want God to forgive your sins, you sure have to forgive everybody who did wrong to you, too!

But what if that guy keeps on doing it? There’s got to be a stop, right?

No!! In Mathew 18:21-22 we read: “Then came Peter to him and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but Until seventy times seven.”

So there is no stop in forgiving. Forgiveness is crucial for your relationship with God, with the people you are living with and with yourself, as you will never find peace on the inside if you don’t let loose and forgive!

We all know how hard it is sometimes to forgive. You’ve been hurt bad and even if you forgive today, temptation will come back tomorrow and tell you: what the heck! I wish something really bad happens to that guy!

And maybe the devil even gives you a chance to pay back in kind.

James 4:7 knows that situation and tells us: “Resist the Devil and he will flee from you”. AMEN!

We’re all vulnerable and we should be aware of that. God wants us never to get cocky, arrogant or overconfident – that will certainly lead to nothing good. Jeremiah said “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure” (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV). So we’re pretty good at fooling ourselves. Under the right circumstances, we all are capable of any sin. So never think you are beyond temptation! Never let down your guard!

Every temptation is also a chance, an opportunity to do good and forgive.

Don’t put the blame on the circumstances. Temptation always starts in your mind. Jesus said: “For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, slander, pride and foolishness. All these things come from within” (Mark 7:21-23 NLT).

So it’s not only the act of being obedient to God that counts, it’s also what’s in your heart. There is the origin of sin – and also the origin of ding good.

And if you got to forgive again, do so! St. Luke tells us in 17:3-4 (KJV): “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.”

Forgiveness will heal your broken relationship with the Lord, with the guys you are living with and with yourself. It takes away the nightmares, the fears and depressions, the anger, the vengeance and the hatred. And it paves the way for reconciliation.

Maybe you think those Christians really live a weird life. No pleasures, no fighting back, no sex, no punching somebody who did you wrong.

C.H. Spurgeons wrote in his book “Metropolitan Tabernacle  Pulpit XXXVII (1891): “”Well Jack”, said one who met a man who had recently became a Christian, “I hear you have given up all your pleasures.” “No”, said Jack, “the fact lies the other way. I have just found all my pleasures, and I have only given up my follies.”

Forgiveness will let the sun shine in your heart again. And in your life – as you open your heart for Jesus and for your own forgiveness as you can read in the Acts 11:43: “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.”

If you break your bond with Jesus, however, by not forgiving, you will be given over to the torturers and harvest the fruit of the flesh as the Galatians names them in 6:19-21: “Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings and such like” whereas the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith.”


So – if you’re depressed, full of anger, bitterness and hatred against the whole world, maybe you should take a look into your heart: is there somebody who did wrong to you and whom you have not forgiven yet?

Ephesians 4:31-32 (KJV) says: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” And it demands in 5:22-23 (KJV): “That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.”

Sin leads to depression, hate, sexual immorality, despair, greed, anger and violence.

So, don’t get mad at God because bad things have been done to you. Don’t scream at Him: “Why did you let it happen?”. It’s not His fault if you’re both empty and sad now – it’s your own fault! Do as He told you – forgive, and you will see the light again!

If you forgive, you’ll find your true identity in Jesus again. He will set you free of those wrong feelings that are simply not you. He will give you back life again! Amen!

James says in 4:12: “Who art thou that judgest another” and Romans tells us in 14:13: “Let us not therefore judge one another anymore”.

But what do you do when temptation comes up again? When you feel the anger and the hatred come back? Don’t feel ashamed just for being tempted. Like that you will never overcome temptation. Consider temptation something good. If you would already do as Satan wants you, he would not have to tempt you. Temptation is not a sign of weakness, it means Satan hates you. Paul advises in 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT): “When you’re tempted, remember that the temptations that come into your life are no different from what others experience.”

Face temptation and the devil will flee from you!

The bible never tells us to “resist temptation” but “resist the devil”. Don’t forget even Jesus was tempted, but He never sinned! So only when you give in to temptation it becomes a sin.

Martin Luther said: “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair”.

Recognize your pattern of temptation, be prepared for it and also ask for God’s help! “Call on me in times of trouble. I will rescue you, and you will honor me” says the Lord in Psalm 50:15 (GWT).

Focus your attention on something else, talk about it with a Christian brother or sister. Remember you’re vulnerable but you have the power to resist the devil.

God won’t give you more than you can take.

1 John 2:9-11 (KJV) tells us: “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness blinded his eyes.”

Let’s focus on that: You don’t forgive and you’ll live in darkness. So don’t come complaining about that torments you’re going through while you still have anger and hatred against your brother in your heart! You are giving in to the devil, you destroy yourself, you break the relationship with your brother and finally you break the bond with God!

Whereas if you forgive, you’ll walk in the light, be at peace with yourself and your brother and rejoice in the love for the Lord! Amen!

Think of why you might be angry at someone. Because he took something that belongs to you? Or someone? Because he hurt you? Or is it simply envy and greed that tortures you? Lust for vengeance?

Read 1 John 2:15-17 (KJV): “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever”. Amen!


Let’s put it in simple words:

Nobody said it’s gonna be easy. It sure hurts bad to forgive somebody who did you wrong. Feels kinda weird, right? Even hurts! But there ain’t no other way. It’s either God or Satan – there’s nothing in-between.

And if everybody tells you you’re out of your mind to forgive someone who did this to you: Never mind! Forgive! You gonna be with Jesus someday, so that should be worth it, right? Don’t forget Jesus died for you, too!

“For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins”.

He died for YOUR sins although He didn’t even have any sins of His own! And you dare not to forgive somebody that doesn’t even get close to that?

Jesus says in St John 8:7 (KJV): “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.”


„I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” (John 11:25)



Amen!


Munich, Germany, December 2004: Robert Gollwitzer

 

13. Bibliography


Lewis, Robert: „Raising a Modern-Day Knight“. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1997.


Lewis, Robert: “Real Family Values”. Sisters, Oregon. Multnomah Publishers Inc., 1995.


Dallas, Joe: “A Strong Delusion. Confronting the “Gay Christian” Movement”. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1996.


Homepages of the southern Baptists (www.sbc.net), the Church of Christ (www.church-of-christ.org), www.actscom.com, www.genesiscounseling.org


Material of the Christian program “Homosexuals Anonymous”, of “Exodus” and other programs related to that


Reinhold Ruthe: “Seelsorge – wie macht man das?”. Gießen. Brunnen Verlag. 1993


Lawrence J. Crabb: „Die Last des anderen“. Basel. Brunnen Verlag. 1984


Robert H. Schuller: „Turning Hurts into Halos“. Nashville. Thomas Nelson Publishers. 1999

 

ESV Audio Widget

Proverbs 28:13

An Attitude of Gratitude

Have you noticed these past many years, that the newest generation, I call the "Me" generation, seems to be a "thankless generation." I am not painting all as thankless, but there does seem to be a prevalence of this kind of attitude. Just watch wherever you go for a few days and see if this is not so. Many from the bygone days are also thankless. It always annoys me when you do a good deed for someone, and they can't be bothered to say thank you.

Perhaps the reason for this attitude is because God has been taken out of the schools, courts etc It's a wonder than "In God We Trust." has not yet been removed from American money.

Well, I suppose that would explain why there are so many thankless people out there. After all, if God is no longer welcome in our countries, the natural tendency to have a good attitude also went out the door with God. We need not look too far to see that the morals that came with the first settlers to these shores , has by and large been abandoned. Crime in the streets has risen greatly since WW II. So I guess we can't expect the people of the land to be very thankful.

Jesus was one day invited to come and dine with a certain Pharisee named Simon. Little did he know that Jesus was going to teach him a lesson about being thankful, about having a good attitude towards others who are gracious to you, of having a loving, forgiving heart.

I would dare to say, that our attitude towards being thankful or not is an indicator also of of relationship and attitude to God. Is He not after all the author of good attitudes? And did Jesus Himself not set the example.

For example at what is commonly called the "Last Supper," when He shared the cup of wine and bread He gave thanks. John 6:11

Scripture commands us to give thanks, to be thankful. Ps. 50:14. And the Apostle Paul said we should likewise give thanks for all things. Phil. 4:6 It is good to give thanks to the Lord. Ps. 92:1 And we are to give thanks to and through Christ Jesus. 1 Tim. 1:12; Rom. 1:8; Col. 3:17.We are to give thanks always for all things. Eph. 5:20; 1 Thess. 5:18

Luke 7:36-50 tells the story of Simon, a Pharisee, who for whatever reason invites Jesus to dine with him. This was still early in the Lord's ministry on earth. The Pharisees had already begun to discredit Jesus for various reasons. The chief reason most likely that Jesus claimed to be deity, yet He did many things in the Pharisaical mind set which they deemed to be a fraud.

At some point during the meal a woman arrives, and she begins to pour a jar of alabaster oil upon the feet of Jesus and to wash His feet with the oil and her tears and then proceeds to dry His feet with her hair. This woman is inferred in this story to be a woman of the street, a prostitute. Simon looked upon this woman and was aghast that Jesus allowed this woman, a known street walker to wash His feet. His thinking was; "if this man was really a prophet, a man of God, then he would know what type of woman she was, and he would have told her to get away from him." After all, what has a sinner such as her got to do with a man of God?

You got to love the way Jesus handles this situation. If ever there was a greater diplomat, it was Jesus. Jesus turns to Simon, the Pharisee, and tells him a parable about two men who owed their master large sums of money. One owed 500 denarii and the other 50 denarii. To understand how much money this was, you need to know that a denarii was the equivalent of a man’s daily wage. So therefore the one man owned the equivalent of about 500 days wages, while the other owned about 50 days wages.

Both men were at the end of their ropes. In a sense both men were equal as to their financial status, as neither could pay their debt. Likewise we are all sinners and none of us are able to pay the debt owed for our sins. We are all at the same level of indebtedness as far as our sins are concerned. In this sense, one sin is no greater than another. A thief is no greater a sinner than a hooker.

Jesus by rights could have been thoroughly incensed at Simon's lack of etiquette in his hospitality towards Jesus. To understand what is meant here, it is best to go back in time to the Middle East at the time of Jesus and learn a little bit of their custom and culture. When a guest, especially an important guest enters your home, it would be proper etiquette to kiss your guest on the cheeks, and to wash his feet of the sand and dust off his sandalled feet. Luke 7:44-46 It would be like you or I entering into an others home after a long journey and to be not offered something to eat or drink, or a place to rest.

Simon's misbehavior was an insult to his guest. It may have been done on purpose, we do not know for sure.

Next we must understand why this woman and others were also there within the same walls. We can safely gleam this to be true as we read verse 49.

When we go to a party, we feel somewhat discomforted if others appear who had not been invited. However, again, going back in time, it was normal for the needy to come and stand aside of the guest table and then to come and take any leftovers when permitted. Other curious onlookers were also allowed to come and observe the goings on. That is why it was quite normal for this uninvited woman to be present.

However it seemed like Simon the host, of this little get together was somewhat surprised to see this woman there, or so it would appear. As far we know this may well have been a set up to entrap Jesus as the Pharisees have done before. John 8:2-11 where we read of the woman caught in adultery.

Simon's action towards the woman is what brought Jesus to tell the parable of the moneylender. Simon actually should have been put to rest immediately, as to the deity of Jesus. Why, because we read; "Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it,” (the woman present washing the feet of Jesus), he said to himself, “if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner." Luke 7:39 (King James Version)

Do you see the point? Simon thought this in his mind. He did not say it aloud. Jesus as we know is God, and He is capable of knowing our thoughts. “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee" Job 42:2 (King James Version) That is why Jesus told Simon this parable. Jesus wanted Simon to know that he to was no less a sinner than this woman. He also wanted Simon to know that God has the prerogative to love any and all sinners. He was also showing Simon that; to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little” (Luke 7:47 b King James Version), and the converse is also true, that to whom much is forgiven, the same loveth much.

This woman however knew that she was a sinner and therefore she came to Jesus to wash His feet as and act of repentance, whereas Simon thought himself to be too good a person and not at all in need of repentance, nor in need of a Savior, nor of forgiveness, as he was in his own mind but a little sinner as compared to the woman.

The woman in Simon's eyes was a great sinner, a member of the dregs of society, unclean, unrighteous. What made it even worse in Simon's eyes was that according to Jewish Laws (Talmud) a woman can be divorced for simply unbinding her hair (letting it down) in the presence of other men. And here she is wiping the feet of Jesus with her own hair. Unbelievable, he would have thought.
Simon was shocked by the fact that Jesus did not try to discourage this woman from washing His feet. This woman is a sinner after all. How could He allow this gross sinner to do this, if indeed He is a prophet, a man of God?

Not only did Simon have contempt for this woman, he also had contempt for Jesus. How dare he, Jesus touch such a sinner, even to let her come near Him. Simon again, being so self righteous looked down at this woman thinking himself much better than her. Surely, he thought to himself, my sins, if I even have any, are not nearly as bad as this untouchable woman.

Of course he knew who, and what kind of woman she was, and He also knew Simon and what kind of man he was. Nothing is hidden from God.
This story exposes the attitudes of both the woman and of Simon. One loved God, the other did not. One was forgiven much and therefore loved much, while the other was forgiven little and loved little and saw no need of forgiveness.
Jesus tells us that the moneylender forgave both the men of their debts, with no strings attached.

Jesus says; "he frankly forgave them both." (Luke 7:42 King James Version). Jesus here uses the Greek word "Chariszoma", which means to give freely, to give cheerfully. He, the money lender actually took upon himself both their debts. This was a great act of grace. Likewise when Jesus died on the cross for us, He freely forgave us all our debts sins. He paid and took upon Himself the penalty of our sins. Rom. 6:23

Jesus ends the parable by asking Simon; “which of them will love him most?" (Luke 7:42 King James Version) Simon responds correctly when he says that the one he owed the most would love the money lender the most.

What we need to learn and know about forgiving grace is that, forgiveness comes before love. In other words until an act of forgiveness is carried out, there is no recipient to love because of being forgiven. Love is the result of forgiveness. If I have done you a wrong, and you have forgiven me of that wrong, I would be most grateful and I would emotionally feel indebted to you. How else can we explain the grace extended by the likes of Corrie ten Boom, or the people who forgave the shooter at the Mennonite school. Who will love him more?

This woman showed her love and gratitude to Jesus because He freely forgave her of her sins. To love someone and to act with an attitude of gratitude shows that this person has the love of the Father in them.

This woman showed her gratitude to Jesus by going all out, pouring her love for him with her tears, with the oil, and then by drying His feet with her hair. Simon on the contrary showed his disrespectful, unforgiving heart by not kissing Jesus, by not washing His feet, by not having a forgiving heart for this woman.

Simon's lack of proper etiquette was not the important thing here. However, it was Simon's spiritual condition which was the most important thing. Simon had an unforgiving, ungracious attitude to people in general and to God. It was well demonstrated towards this woman.

This woman's thankful attitude prompted Jesus to say to this woman; "Thy sins are forgiven" (Luke 7:48 King James Version) because she loved much. Simon loved little. Her love proved her genuine acceptance of being forgiven.

I am reminded of the story in Luke 17:12-19 of the 10 lepers. Jesus showed compassion upon these men and graciously healed all ten of them.Yet, later on we read that only one returned and expressed how thankful he was by shouting and giving glory to God. Again here is a mirror of our own world today. So few are thankful for even the basic necessities of life which God's provides freely. Only a handful of people by comparison show and express how grateful they are to all that the Lord has provided. Few seem to be grateful even to their fellow man for any and all things. The world is full of evil these days. “And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love." Ps. 109:5 (King James Version) It is said that; "he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death." Prov. 8:36 (King James Version) Jesus describes the condition of the world in the last days when He said, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold." Matt 24:12 (King James Version) In others words, many shall there be in these last days who will be unrighteous, be uncaring, unloving, unforgiving of their love for God and of their fellow man.

This verse helps to support the theory that those who are sinful, think of themselves to be above their fellow man, they care not for the love of others or of the things of God, for they love not, therefore, they are unforgiving. The love of God is not in them. Forgiveness has its birth from the Lord.

Each one of us has to look at oneself in the mirror and do a self examination, to see if we have a forgiving heart, a thankful heart and the love of God in us. A lack of gratitude shows a lack of love and thus a lack of forgiveness and therefore a lack of love for their fellow man and for God. Simon did not love God because he did not know God. Therefore Simon also had an unforgiving, unloving, thankless heart. And you!

It is sad that Simon could not find it within his heart to forgive and have compassion for this woman. Jesus however declared to her; "Thy sins are forgiven." (Luke 7:48 King James Version) This is a once and for all action by Jesus that cannot be undone by Him The Son of God is our great forgiver. He alone can forgive absolutely.

Why is it that Jesus can forgive sins? It is because He died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. It is His blood which atones, forgives us of our sins. Jesus took upon Himself our sins debts, for “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins." Eph. 1:7 (King Jams Version) The cost of His forgiveness was great. It cost Him His blood, His life, crucifixion and the separation from His Father for a time. Review for yourself the Passion either in the movie or in scripture and see for yourself what He endured to be able to forgive you of your sins. Matt. 26:45-27:50; Mark 14:43-16:37; Luke 22:47-23:46; John 18:1-19:37

This woman and our sins our forgiven freely, for us based upon the work of Christ on the cross, by way of our faith, by believing and accepting the free gift of salvation. It is a free gift. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." (Eph 2:8 King James Version) By faith, Jesus told the woman and us that we are saved. Luke 7:50

To the Pharisee and the unforgiving this is outrageous. "Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men." 1 Cor. 1:25 (King James Version)

" But the natural man [Parisees, UN-thankful, unforgiving], receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." 1 Cor. 2:14 (King James Version) "For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ." 1 Cor. 2:16 "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." 1 Cor. 3:19 (Both King James Version)

There are no conditions, no strings attached for us to be saved. Only trust in what He did on the cross brings salvation. When one buys you a gift, it is usually a free gift to you. You need not do anything at all to receive it, other than to reach out with an open hand and accept it. If there is a price of any sort, any strings attached, the gift is not free at all. It reminds me of TV infomercials that say if you send so much money for shipping and handling, you get the offer for free. How can it be for free if you had to spend money on it to get it?

Jesus is not like these infomercials. There is no fee for shipping and handling. He brings salvation to you for free. He brings it to you Himself and lays it in your outstretched hands, if you will but accept it. This woan at Jesus' feet did just that, she opened up herself and accepted the free gift of salvation. Thus Jesus was able to say to her; "Thy sins are forgiven." Luke 7:48 (King James Version) When you receive a gift, it is only polite to say "thank you." When God has forgiven us our sins, it would only be proper to say "Thank you!"

Upon forgiving this lady Jesus added one more loving gracious phrase. He said; "go in peace." Luke 7:50 (King James Version) What was this peace? It was peace with God and peace within herself. What else but such a soul lifting free gift from God could ever bring such peace to one heart? Thank you Lord !

This parable should cause us all to do a self examination and see if we have a heart of gratitude and love for Jesus and for our fellow man, the evidence of forgiveness in our hearts.

To love not is to not forgive. If you are unable to forgive, check the source. Perhaps you love not. Perhaps you do not know the Lord. Therefore you are unable to forgive, unable to receive the free gift, unable to be thankful.

If this is the case for you, read again the Book of John and the Passion passages in the Bible. Look and see what Jesus has done for you. Stand at the bottom of the cross and see what it cost Him to forgive you of your sins.(His stripes, the scourging, his beard pulled, his back whipped to the bone)

Then when that is done, accept His free gift, be thankful that He has forgiven you. Show your love for Him by pouring the alabaster jar of oil upon His feet. Allow your tears to flow in love for Him. Dry his feet with an attitude of gratitude.

Stop being a Pharisee.

Forgive yourself.

Forgive your enemy.

Love your neighbor.

And lastly say; "Thank you!"

Here is a song of the Love one has for Christ when one has been forgiven.

In Christ Alone

In Christ alone my hope is found, He is my light, my strength my song.
This cornerstone, this solid ground, firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace, when fears are still, when strikings cease.
My comforter, my All in All, here in the love of Christ I stand.
In Christ alone who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless babe.
The gift of love and righteousness, scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross, as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied.
For every sin on Him was laid, here in the death of Christ I live.
There in the ground, His body lay. Light of the world by darkness slain.
Then bursting forth, in glorious day, up from the grave He arose again.
And as He stands in victory, since curse has lost it's grip on me.
For I am His, and He is mine. Bought with the precious blood of Christ.
No gift of love, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me.
From life's first cry, to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man can ever pluck me from His hand.
Till He returns, or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I stand.
One cannot help but have an attitude of gratitude
When we see what He has done for us,
When we look and see how far to the cross He has come,
From heaven above to shed His blood on Calvary,
To pay sins debt for you and me,
Oh for the love of such a Savior as He,
To offer freely a love so divine,
So rich, so free,
If I but trust in His love for me,
To reach out and grasp His forgiving Love
That I may shout from now till eternity,
Thank you Lord !
THANK YOU LORD FOR SAVING MY SOUL.
THANK YOU LORD FOR HE MAKING WHOLE
THANK YOU LORD FOR GIVING TO ME
THY GREAT SALVATION SO RICH AND FREE
THANK YOU LORD.

Lyrics copyright 2001 Kingsway/Thankyou Music

For song story click here: http://www.crosswalk.com/church/worship/song-story-in-christ-alone-1275127.html


If we can but................... remember that it is .............. because of Him.................that....... it is all about Him, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Our Redeemer, Our King...
what depths of joy,.... what depths of gracious love... what depths of thankfulness... what depths of worship.............

I bow my knee in Humble Adoration .................before my King.. My God..My Lord...My Savior...I Give All...To Him. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I Adore you...Son Of God.....

My Lord...My God...My Savior.........Jesus Christ !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

andré


PENANCE AND RECONCILIATION

INTERNATIONAL THEOLOGICAL COMMISSION

PENANCE AND RECONCILIATION*

(1982)

 

Introduction

In the preaching of Jesus the call to conversion is connected immediately with the good news of the coming of the Kingdom of God (cf Mt 1:14f.). Thus, when the Church, following Jesus and by virtue of the mission that it has received, calls to conversion and announces the reconciliation that God has worked through the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ (cf 2 Cor 5:18-20), it preaches a God who is rich in pity (Eph 2:4) and who is not ashamed to be called the God of men (cf. Heb 11:16).

This is why the message that proclaims God as the true God and announces the coming of his Kingdom is at the same time the message of salvation for man and of the reconciliation of the world. By contrast, sin, which does not acknowledge God as God and which refuses the community with God that God offers man since the beginning of creation, signifies at the same time the alienation of man from the meaning and goal of his human nature as well as the alienation of men from each other. Even when we are not faithful, God nevertheless remains faithful. This is the reason why he concluded a Covenant, first with the people he had chosen; and then, in the fullness of time he renewed this alliance by making Jesus Christ the unique mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5). He concluded this New and eternal Covenant through the blood Jesus Christ has shed for the many for the forgiveness of sins (Mt 26:28).

If this is the center of the Christian message, then the theme of penance and reconciliation concerns the Church, which is, for the world, the sacrament of reconciliation in its entire existence, in its doctrine as well as in its life. On the other hand, one may say also that the loss of the sense of sin, which we see occurring nowadays in many parts of the world, has its roots in the loss of the sense of God and leads subsequently to a loss of the sense of man. For this reason, in preaching conversion and reconciliation, the Church remains faithful both to God and to man; as a steward entrusted with the divine mysteries (cf 1 Cor 4:1) it serves at the same time the salvation of man.

In this context, which is both theological and anthropological, “without separation and confusion”, the International Theological Commission submits its paper, which it was asked to prepare for the Synod of Bishops, 1983. It is not its intention to say everything on the subject, and it does not want to dwell on what is generally known and acknowledged. It is nevertheless of the opinion that it would not meet the expectations that are with reason placed on it, if it would immediately or even exclusively deal with the theological and pastoral problems that are more immediately pressing. It is convinced that penance and reconciliation are of great importance in the encounter with the various cultures in which men live. On the other hand, it also believes that there is an inseparable link between the doctrine and the living praxis of the Church. For this reason it proposes to submit its reflections in three stages:

1. an analysis of the contemporary anthropological situation of (the sacrament of) penance in relation to the present crisis of man

2. the biblical, historical, and dogmatic foundations of the doctrine of (the sacrament of) penance

3. reflections on some important questions of the doctrine and the praxis of (the sacrament of) penance

A. ANTHROPOLOGICAL CONTEXT OF PENANCE

I. The Essence of Penance from an Anthropological Point of View

1. Guilt and sin, penance and conversion, are found everywhere among men. They are to be found in all religions and cultures, even if they have taken different forms in the course of history. The call to penance and the message of the Old and New Testaments concerning reconciliation given by God presuppose these universal human phenomena and purify and transcend them.

In the understanding of the Bible, conversion and penance are man’s answer to God’s offer of a reconciliation, rendered possible and conveyed by God’s grace. Penance is, therefore, at the same time a gift of God and a free, morally responsible act of man (actus humanus), in which man as the responsible subject avows his evil acts but at the same time changes his life by a personal decision and gives it a new direction to God. It follows from this union of the divine and human in the act of penance that pastoral efforts in favor of a renewal of the penitential attitude and of the sacrament of penance must take, necessarily, the anthropological element into account, i.e., the economic, sociological, psychological, and spiritual presuppositions of penance.

2. The contemporary crisis in the understanding and praxis of penance is concerned neither exclusively nor always primarily with dogmatic, disciplinary, and pastoral questions of detail. In large areas of the present world a loss of the sense of sin, and hence of penance, has occurred. This situation has many causes. We should, in the first case, draw attention to causes that are internal to the Church. Because of the way in which it was practiced in the Church until the recent past, many Christians felt hat it was void of meaning and efficacy from the human point of view. he practice of penance as it is has, in many cases, hardly anything to do with the life of man and the dramatic situation of the present day.

To this a more extraecclesial aspect must be added. The present crisis of penance is, in the last analysis, rooted in a crisis of modern man, in particular of man influenced by the ideas of Western civilization, and by the way in which he understands himself to the exclusion of any realization of sin and guilt in his life. Nowadays guilt and sin are very often no longer understood as an original element of man’s personal responsibility but as secondary phenomena, derived from nature, culture, society, history, circumstances, the unconscious, etc. They are therefore to be explained as an ideology or as an illusion. In this way personal conscience has been weakened, and the often unconscious influences of the social norms of a largely de-Christianized world have become stronger.

3. The renewal of the anthropological presuppositions of penance must therefore begin with the renewal of the understanding of man as a morally and religiously responsible person. The personal dignity of man consists in his human liberty, which entails the possibility of becoming guilty, a truth that must be restressed. The task of realizing oneself is part of being human. Basic to the notion of the primacy of the person over things is the idea that man is not only an object of anonymous physiological, economic, social, and cultural forces but is also a free, responsible subject, who is himself the cause of tensions, disruptions, and alienations in the world. It follows that where sin and guilt are no longer basically acknowledged, something essentially human is endangered in man.

4. The unconditional dignity of man as a person is based, in the last analysis, on his relation to God, on his likeness to God, and on his being called by grace to enter into communion with God. For this reason man himself remains an unsolved problem to which only God can give the full and completely certain answer; yes, God and communion with God are the answers to the problem that man not only has but also is in his innermost self (GS 21). Therefore, the renewal of man and of the awareness of his personal dignity must begin with conversion to God and the renewal of community with him. Conversely, when the Church calls man a convert to God it is a “sign and protection of the transcendence of the human person” (GS 76).

II. Anthropological Dimensions of Penance

1. The human person is essentially linked to a body This implies dependence on physiological, economic, sociological, cultural, and psychological conditions. In addition, man’s guilt and sins express themselves in the organizations and structures created by man and by society In their turn these organizations and structures exercise a profound influence on people living in them, render the exercise of liberty more difficult, and may even be an invitation to sin. Structures that come from sin and are marked by it may have an alienating and destructive influence on man. Nevertheless, despite the weight of their influence on the personal conduct of individuals we can, at the most, speak of “sinful structures” and “structural sin” only in an analogous sense. In the proper sense of the term only man is capable of sin. However, because these structures are the product of sin and can again become an occasion of sin, and even invite to sin, penance and conversion, whenever possible, must work for a change in these structures. Such changes presuppose personal conversion and must be brought about by means that agree with and that lead to reconciliation.

The question of how this can be brought about depends on the position and the possibilities of the individual in a given society. Large sections of mankind nowadays are forced to accept a whole world of suffering and penance because of evil structures in the economic, social, and political fields. The attempt to escape from these structures entails for many a renouncing of possessions or positions; this can also be a penitential experience. The attempt to palliate or remove evil structures may even lead to great sacrifices and persecution, which must then be borne in a spirit of penance.

In these different ways it becomes clear to us that confession and penance must, of necessity, have a bodily and worldly dimension and lead to bodily fruits of penance. By such a conversion of the entire person to God, the return and homecoming of all reality to God take place.

2. Corporeal and social dimensions must be borne in mind equally in the human person. Hence, conversion to God is irrevocably connected with conversion to one’s brother. For God is the Father of all men. Through him and under him all men make up one family Conversion is, for that reason, only authentic when it includes the implementation of the exigencies of justice and the struggle for a just order, for peace and justice. Reconciliation with God must lead to reconciliation with our brethren and must contribute to the establishment of a communion of love for which the Church is the sacrament, that is, a sign and instrument. Conversion to God, however, has not only social consequences but also social presuppositions. Only those who experience love can open themselves in love for God and for their neighbors. Therefore, penance should not be understood as a mere private and innermost attitude. Because (not “although”) it is a personal act, it also has a social dimension. This point of view is also of importance for the justification of the ecclesial and sacramental aspects of penance.

3. Man is a being who lives in time and history. He can only find his own identity when he avows his sinful past and opens himself to a new future. Sin may indeed be understood as an incurvatio hominis or as amor curvus. Conversion consists in man giving up this egotistical, stifling concentration on himself and opening up to God and his fellowmen. Both things take place in the confession of guilt. Here man confesses his sinful past as his own, by opening himself up before God and before man, saying what he has on his mind, so that he may reach a fresh future in the community with God and with his brethren. From the anthropological point of view such an avowal is already an essential element of penance, and already at the level of psychical and social life it has a liberating and reconciling effect. The renewal of the sacrament of penance can take this anthropological insight as its starting point and in this way render personal confession of sins understandable again. It may, and should, learn also from these anthropological insights and conceive the sacrament of penance more clearly as a sacrament with a dialogue structure and realize it as such in practice.

4. Wherever men convert themselves in this way, do penance and confess their guilt, they touch upon the deepest secret of the person, which in its turn refers to the secret of God. Wherever this happens, by way of anticipation, man’s hope is fulfilled in the ultimate meaning and in the eschatological reconciliation of the world, which in its plenitude has been given and revealed to us only through Jesus Christ. Because penance in its general human and religious form anticipates in a fragmentary way what is given by Jesus Christ to those who believe, it may be designated as a sacramentum legis naturae (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, In IV Sent. 22, q. 2, a. 3).

B. THEOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS OF PENANCE

I. The Theological Foundations

1. The message of the Old and New Testaments, which surpasses by far all human expectations, is intrinsically theocentric. Its object is that the divine being of God and his glory are revealed, that his Kingdom comes, that his will be done, and his name be hallowed (Mt 6:9; Lk 11:2). Correspondingly, the Decalogue begins with these words: “I am the Lord your God” (Ex 20:2; Deut 5:6). The demand that man give himself wholly to God and to his fellowmen acquires with Jesus a new height and depth of content and also an intensity that surpass those of the Old Testament (cf. Mt 12:29-31 par.).

By contrast, sin is the attitude and act of a man who does not acknowledge God and his Kingdom. For this reason it is described in holy Scripture as disobedience, as idolatry, and as the willful autonomy of man carried to an extreme. Because of such an aversion from God and an inordinate conversion to created things and values, man ultimately misses the truth that he is a creature; he is alienated from himself (cf. Rom l:21ff.). By returning again to God in conversion, he also finds again the meaning of his own existence.

2. The Old Testament idea of God is determined by the idea of Covenant. God is described as a loving bridegroom, a bountiful father; he is dives in misericordia, always intent on forgiveness and reconciliation, always ready to renew his Covenant. It is also true that Gods wrath is a reality. It shows that in his love God allows himself to be affected because of the evil in the world and that he reacts against injustice and lies. In this perspective sin is described as breaking the Covenant, and it is compared to adultery.

But finally, already in the prophets, hope in the grace and faithfulness of God is the first and last word. Radical demands and a call to conversion are wholly and definitively embedded in Jesus’ message of salvation (Lk 6:35). With him the Gospel has an absolute priority over the law. This does not mean that there are no longer any moral demands. Rather, the moral demands and call to conversion that Jesus makes can be understood and realized only in the framework of his joyous message. Man’s conversion and total surrender are only made possible by the promise of God’s love and his prevenient will to forgive, which make man free and encourage him. Conversion and penance, therefore, are no mere human efforts but a gift of grace. For in his own attempts at conversion man is always conditioned by sin and injustice and by a lack of peace, freedom, and reconciliation. Only God can heal man in his innermost self and grant him a qualitatively new start by giving him a new heart (Jer 31:33; Ezek 36:26). It is not that we reconcile ourselves with God; it is God who through Christ reconciles us to him (2 Cor 5:8).

3. Neither sin nor the conversion of man is understood in an individualistic way in the Old and New Testaments. On the contrary, and especially with the prophets, sins against social justice are condemned by God in the name of the Covenant. The Old and New Testaments consider man in solidarity with his people and with the whole of mankind (cf. Gen 3; Rom 5), that is, in solidarity with the new people of God. On the other hand, the prophets of the seventh and sixth centuries before Christ had already discovered man’s personal responsibility as an individual.

Conversion to Jesus Christ calls the individual away from his attachment to his own people in order to insert him into the new people of God, which embraces all peoples. More particularly, the grace of conversion requires a triple answer from man: in the first place, a real change of heart, a new spirit and intention, are necessary. Conversion and penance are a fundamental option (cf. on this point C, III, 3f.) of the person directed toward God, as well as a complete renunciation of sin.

In the second place, Jeremiah expected the sinner to confess his guilt publicly and to promise to correct his conduct “before Yahweh” (Jer 36:5-7). According to Jesus, well-intentioned, confident faith (cf. Mk 1:15), contrite confession, and prayer for pardon are likewise the beginning of conversion and the starting point of a change of life (cf. Lk 11:4; cf. 18:10-14).

Finally, penance should express itself in a radical revolution of one’s entire life and in all its areas. The fulfillment of justice and readiness to forgive one s neighbor belong above all to this (cf. Mt 18:21-35; Lk 17:4).

II. Christological Foundations

1. The Old Testament already looks forward to the New Covenant in which God gives man a new heart and a new spirit (Jer 31:31-33; Ezek 36:26f). Isaiah expects the “servant of God” (Is 53), Malachi the “angel of the Covenant” (Mai 3:1). Jesus knows that the salvation of the coming Kingdom of God is already present in his own existence (Lk 10:23f). Hence, according to him the center of the demand for conversion consists in accepting, in faith and as a child, salvation that is already promised (Mk 10:15), in converting oneself to him in belief (Lk 12:8ff.), in the hearing and keeping of his word (Lk 10:38-42; ll:27f), and in following him (cf. Mt 8:19f, 21f).

Conversion, therefore, now also consists in decision for Jesus, in which the coming Kingdom of God is at the same time decided on. But Jesus must have realized from the very start that in his demand he was asking too much from his disciples and hearers, and that, from a human point of view, he would fail, just like the prophets and the Baptist. But in his confidence in God his Father he could nevertheless carry on with his message and connect it, probably from the very beginning, with the thought of his suffering (cf. Mk 12:1-12). In baptism we die as Jesus died on the Cross, and this is the fundamental basis of all Christian penance.

2. The New Testament denotes the Cross of Jesus Christ with concepts such as vicarious representation, sacrifice, atonement. All these concepts are nowadays poorly understood by a great number of people and hence must be carefully deciphered and interpreted. In an introductory and preparatory way this can be done by pointing to the solidarity itself of human life: the being, deeds, and omissions of the other and the others affect the individual in his own being and doing. In this way, a new understanding can be reached of the fact that by his obedience and his self-surrender “for the many”, Jesus Christ’s work of redemption becomes fully understandable only if one adds to this that in Jesus Christ God himself has entered into the condition humana. In this way, through the Person of the God-Man Jesus Christ, God has reconciled the world to himself (cf. 2 Cor 5:14, 17). Redemption from sin, otherwise known as the forgiveness of sin, takes place therefore by means of the admirabile commercium. God has made “the sinless one into sin so that in him we might become the justice of God” (2 Cor 5:21; cf. Rom 8:3f; Gal 3:13; 1 Pet 2:24). “In the human nature united to himself the Son of God, by overcoming death through his own death and Resurrection, redeemed man and changed him into a new creation” (LG 7). “By the very fact that human nature was assumed, not absorbed in him, it has been raised in us also to a dignity beyond comparison. For by his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man” (GS 22; cf. International Theological Commission, “Select Questions on Christology” [1979]1).

3. Christian penance is a participation in the suffering and death of Christ. This comes about per fidem et caritatem et per fidei sacramenta (St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, q. 49, a. 3 ad 6). Christian penance has its foundation in baptism, which is the sacrament of conversion for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38) and the sacrament of faith. Therefore, it should have a determining influence on the entire Christian life (cf. Rom 6:3ff.).

Christian penance must therefore not be understood in the first place as an ethical and ascetic event but as basically sacramental, viz., the gift of a new existence, granted by God, which also urges ethical and ascetical practice. It should not only take place in individual acts, but it should also characterize the entire Christian life. In this statement the justified concern of Luther’s first thesis on indulgences, 31 October 1517, is also intimated. As a matter of fact, penance should not be reduced by being considered in a personal isolation. Following Jesus as it does, it must be understood both as obedience to the Father and as a vicarious service for the others and for the world.

III. The Ecclesial Foundations

1. The work of reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ remains a living reality present to us through the action of the Holy Spirit and acquires its encompassing fulfillment in the community of the faithful. This does not mean that through the action of the Holy Spirit reconciliation may not also take place outside of the boundaries of the Church.

Nevertheless, the Church is, in Jesus Christ, the sacramental sign of forgiveness and reconciliation for the entire world. It is this in a threefold way: (a) it is the Church of the poor, of the suffering, and of those deprived of their rights. It strives to alleviate their needs and to serve Jesus Christ in them; (b) it is the Church of sinners, which is at the same time holy and has to go the road of conversion and renewal; (c) it is the persecuted Church, which “presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God” (LG 8).

Thus the Church lives a life based on the pardon of God in Jesus Christ. It is not only the sign of this reconciliation but also its efficacious instrument in the world (cf. LG 11). It is this also by preaching and mediating the reconciliation that God has granted us in Jesus Christ. It does so by the word of penance and reconciliation, by the sacrament of penance, and by its entire ministry of reconciliation.

2. The Church can only be the sacramental sign of reconciliation for the world when and if the word and the ministry of reconciliation are alive in it. According to the example of the God who reconciles, the fraternal community of the faithful also implies willingness to forgive (cf. Eph 4:32; Col 3:13; Lk 17:3f; Mt 18:21f.).

The reconciliation received from God aims at fraternal forgiveness (cf. Mt 5:23f; 6:12, 14f; Mk 11:25f). When the community forgives, the reconciling love of Jesus Christ addresses itself to the sinful brother. Admonition and blame (cf. Mt 18:15f.) are meant to save the brother whose salvation is endangered. This care for the erring brother must be untiring and the readiness to forgive unlimited (cf. Mt 18:21).

The seriousness of God’s offer of salvation requires that another aspect be considered. By sin the Church itself is wounded, precisely as the sign of the reconciliation between God and men, and between men among themselves. For this reason faults against the worship of God and offenses against fraternal love are intimately connected. The judgment comprises both aspects, as is shown by the way Jesus identifies himself with the humblest of his brothers (cf. Mt 25:40-45). Hence the Church itself must time and time again be purified from evil and take the road of conversion and renewal (LG 8). Thus conversion to God is at the same time a movement toward our brothers and reconciliation with the ecclesial community. He who converts himself must go over the road along which reconciliation first came to him. Ecclesiae caritas quae per Spiritum Sanctum diffunditur in cordibus vestris, participum suorum peccata dimittit (St. Augustine, In Evang. Ioan. 121, 4). Thus there is no forgiveness of faults without the Church. Reconciliation with the Church and reconciliation with God cannot be separated from one another.

3. Despite its admonitions to forgive without limit, the New Testament does not discount the possibility of serious offenses against Christian love toward God and one’s neighbors. Here a praxis of reconciliation in stages becomes visible: obtaining the favor of the brother, admonition, correction, strong language, exclusion (cf. Mt 18:15-20; also 1 Cor 5:1-13; 2 Cor 2:5-11; 7:10-13). Here stubbornness and persistence in a particular wrong attitude are very important criteria for the seriousness of the fault. A measure of exclusion can become unavoidable for the sake of the health of the community.

4. The power to forgive sins, which Jesus possesses (cf. Mk 2:1-12), is also given “to men” (Mt 9:8). In certain passages of the New Testament it is the Church as a whole which in this regard stands in the limelight, although it is indicated that it has ministries and that there are different offices. Even if in a few texts the group of persons to which a task is assigned cannot be fully ascertained (cf. Mt 18:15-20; Jn 20:22f), the general duty to reconciliation (cf. Mt 5:23f.) is nevertheless distinguished from the general ministerial power to forgive or to retain sins.

The word and the ministry of reconciliation are indeed committed in a special way to the apostolic ministry in the Church. This ministry stands in the place of Christ, and through it we hear God (2 Cor 5:20; cf. 1 Cor 5:1-13; 2 Cor 2:5-11; 7:10-13). Here the relation with the encompassing power to teach and to direct, granted to Peter, is important (cf. Mt 16:18f). Precisely with regard to sins that exclude from the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9f; Gal 5:20f; Eph 5:5; Rev 21:8, 22:15; cf. Heb 6:4-6; 10:26f; 1 Jn 5:16; Mt 12:31f.), the full power to forgive or to retain sins cannot but be granted to him to whom the keys of the Kingdom of heaven have been given.

A fundamental transgression against God and the Church can only be over-come by an unmistakable, authentic word of forgiveness in the name of Jesus Christ and on his authority (auctoritas). The specific power required for this was given by Jesus to the ministry, which presides with authority over the Church and to which the ministry of unity has also been committed.

Through this authorized ministry instituted by Jesus Christ, God himself accomplishes the forgiveness of sins (cf. Mt 16:19; 18:18; Jn 20:23). In accordance with what Christ established, God forgives through the Holy Spirit when the Church absolves from sins by her official ministers. This structure of the sacrament of penance became ever clearer to the Church when in the course of its history it kept reflecting on the meaning of holy Scripture (cf. the importance of Mt 16:19 and 18:18 in Tertullian, De pudicitia 21, 9ff.; Origen, De oratione 28, on Jn 20:23), and it was declared final and binding by the Council of Trent (cf. the reference to Jn 20:23 in DS 1670, 1679, 1684, 1692, 1703). The Second Vatican Council moved the ecclesial aspect of penance once more to the foreground (LG 11; cf. also the revised Ordo paenitentiae).

Summing up we must therefore say: The exclusion (excommunicatio = to bind) from the community of the Church, the universale salutis sacramentum, is valid in heaven (before God), and means the exclusion from the sacraments of salvation, in particular from the Eucharist. Readmission (reconciliatio = to absolve) to the full communion with the Church (= the Communion of the Eucharist) is at the same time reconciliation with God (forgiveness of sins). Thus in sacramental penance the readmission to full sacramental Communion with the Church is the sacramental sign (res et sacramentum) of the renewed communion with God (res sacramenti). This idea the early Church had of the sacrament of penance should again be urged more clearly on the mind of the Church by preaching and catechesis.

5. Penance must be seen in an organic relationship with the other sacraments. In the first place it is present in all as the word of reconciliation in the comprehensive teaching of the Church. A central witness to this is the Article in the Creed: “I believe ... in the forgiveness of sins.”

Forgiveness shows itself in the conversion, by which the believer turns away from his previous sinful life, converts himself with all his heart to God, who by the remission of his sins liberates him from his situation without grace and opens a new life for him in the Spirit. This conversion basically takes place by faith and baptism. In baptism the gift of the Spirit is sealed; the believer becomes a member of the Body of Christ, the Church.

Therefore baptism also remains the basis for the forgiveness of later sins. The penance of the baptized, which for those born from water and the Spirit often appeared to be wholly impossible and in the early Church was felt to be possible only once, requires not only—as in baptism— sincere contrition as a disposition to forgiveness but also the firm will to mend one’s life. Expiation is also involved, as well as confession before the Church represented by its official ministers. Although it “refers back to baptism, penance is a sacrament of its own with a sacramental sign of its own and a special effect. According to its innermost nature it As a complement of baptism (c£ the classical expressions paenitentia secunda: Tertullian, De paenitentia 7, 10; secunda planca salutis: De paenitentia 4, 2; 12, 9, quoted in DS 1542; laboriosus quidam baptismus: Gregory Nazianzen, Oratio 39, 17, quoted in DS 1672).

As a second baptism the sacrament of penance is at the same time presupposed for receiving the other sacraments (cf. Richard of St. Victor, De potestate ligandi et solvendi 21). This applies in particular to the Eucharist, which is the culminating point of the spiritual life of the Church and of the individual faithful (LG 11). The “anointing of the sick” has already from the beginning of the Church a relationship with the forgiveness of sins (cf. Jas 5:15; furthermore DS 1695f., 1699, 1716). “Hoc sacramentum praebet etiam, si necesse est, veniam peccatorum et consummationen paenitentiae christianae” (Ordo unctionis infirmorum, Praenotandam, no. 6, with a reference to DS 1694, 1696).

At the approach of the end of mans pilgrimage, or at least in the case of a serious physical threat to his life, the anointing of the sick is a particular form of the renewal of baptism. All this shows the close connection between baptism, penance and anointing of the sick and their relationship with the Eucharist, which is the center of the sacramental life of the Church.

IV. Foundations in the Light of the History of Dogma and of Theology

a. Nonvariables in the Historical Development

1. The essential structure of the sacrament of penance is already attested in the apostolic and postapostolic Church. A particular, although not exclusive, importance attaches to the expression “binding and loosing” of Matthew 16:19 and 18:18, as well as to its variant in John 20:23 (cf. above, B, III, 4). The essence of this sacrament, therefore, consists in the fact that the reconciliation of the sinner with God takes place by the reconciliation with the Church.

Correspondingly, the sign of the sacrament of penance consists in a dual process: on the one hand, in the human acts of a conversion inspired by love (contritio and conversio), external confession, [and] satisfaction (satisfactio). This is the anthropological dimension. On the other hand, it consists in the fact that the ecclesial community, under the direction of the bishop and the priest, offers forgiveness of sins in the name of Jesus Christ, establishing the necessary forms of satisfaction, prays for the sinner, and does penance with him vicariously, so as to absolve him finally and to pronounce his full belonging to the ecclesial community. This is the ecclesial dimension.

2. In the historical development of the sacrament of penance the decisive process consists in that the personal character of this sacrament was ever better acknowledged and expressed. In this process of personalization, the living Tradition of the Church has carried on and brought to completion the evolution that had already established itself in the Old Testament and in the passage from the Old to the New Testament, and made it in a profound way her very own (cf. above, B, I, 3). Since this basic orientation of the biblical testimony has found expression in the universal consensus of the Church, it is now irreversible. This also had the effect, it is true, of pushing the ecclesial dimension of the sacrament of penance into the background of consciousness for a long time. In our century this community aspect of penance has been rediscovered. The Second Vatican Council and the new Ordo paenitentiae have taken up this insight. Yet it should have still deeper roots in the awareness of the faithful so that we may reach again an objective balance of both aspects of penance.

To carry out this pastoral task correctly in our own time, a more through-going knowledge of the history of the sacrament of penance is required. This will show, in addition to the permanence of the essential elements, a variation that cannot be ignored. And in this way it also points to the freedom the Church today has— “salva eorum substantia” (DS 1728; cf. 3857)—in the renewal of the sacrament of penance.

b. Variables in the Historical Development

1. Reconciliation in the Church has always been related to two different situations of Christian life: on the one hand, the realization that we live a life based on and given in baptism imposes on us a continuous struggle against daily sins. On the other hand, the praxis of penance should bring back to a life of grace and return the rights of baptism to those who violated the seal of baptism by sins that lead to death and that are irreconcilable with Christian existence.

In the early Church everyday sins were forgiven by liturgical prayers in which the entire community participated, in particular during the celebration of the Eucharist on Sunday; in addition, many other forms of penance had their importance (cf. below, C, I, 3). In the proper sense of the term, the discipline of penance in the early Church was concerned with the second situation. In the transition from public to private penance, the sacrament, which was now administered repeatedly, was more and more extended from mortal to venial sins. One single form of the sacrament now related to the two different situations of the Christian life mentioned above.

2. That form of the confession of sins, which is tied to spiritual direction, is a very ancient treasure of the Church. On the one hand, it belongs to the very structure of the sacrament instituted by Jesus Christ. On the other hand, as can be seen in the monastic and spiritual traditions, it also has a place outside the sacrament. Both these data are factors in the development that is guided by the spiritual experience of the Church. At the end of the period of the primitive Church, in the early and high Middle Ages, this led to a growing desire for private confessions of one’s sins; spiritual direction and sacramental confession became increasingly connected with each other.

3. The Church has shown that it enjoys a wide margin of freedom with regard to the discipline and the pastoral aspects of reconciliation, in that it attempted to shape the discipline of its sacraments—the basic structure of which is unchangeable—in accordance with the needs of the Christian people and for the benefit of the ministry to the faithful. The most conspicuous change has been the passing from the predominance of public penance to the prevalence of private penance.

Because of the difficulties and the disaffection attaching to the more ancient practice, the Church, at a time of change in the area of secular living, arrived at a renewed discipline, which was not possible without drawbacks and conflicts. This made the sacrament more attractive and gave it a form that proved more fruitful. This new form of the sacrament also led to a change in the order of the acts of penance: originally reconciliation was granted only after the imposed satisfaction had been carried out; now the absolution was given immediately after the confession of sins.

4. Moreover, the Church passed from a discipline that knew certain cases of unforgivable sins, that is, of lifelong penance, to a discipline under which all sins are forgiven. Furthermore, there was a transition from the practice of administering penance once only to a penance that could be repeated; from the imposition of very severe penances that extended over a long spell of time to lighter penance; from a penance that was originally mainly public, which corresponded to public sins, to private penance; from reconciliation reserved to the bishop to absolution granted by the priest; from the deprecatory to the indicative formula of absolution.

5. The form of the acts of the penitent was also subject to a noteworthy change. It often happened that one of these was emphasized so much that others were relegated to the background. Public penance in the primitive Church stood under the sign of public satisfaction, which lasted for a set period of time; private penance in the Middle Ages and in the modern period, on the other hand, underlined the importance of contrition; in our own time the accent is more on confession. Since this confession often concerns less serious sins, the sacrament of penance in many cases took the form of a “cheap sacrament”. “Confession”, “contrition”, and satisfaction must be considered once more, therefore, in their intrinsic relationship.

c. The Doctrine of the Council of Trent

1. The doctrinal statement of the Council of Trent on the sacrament of penance (DS 1667-93, 1701-15) must be understood as an answer to certain precise questions that were actual in those days in the controversy with the Protestants. This context and this intention are of great importance for the interpretation of the decree of Trent on the sacrament of penance.

In the sixteenth century the questions relating to reconciliation and the sacrament of penance, which were the subject of controversy between Catholics and Protestants, were mainly concerned with the following points:

a. the institution by Jesus Christ of penance as a sacrament different from baptism

b. the relation of justifying faith to contrition, to confession, to satisfaction, and to sacramental absolution

c. the obligation to confess all mortal sins, and furthermore the question whether such a confession is possible, whether it is required by God or by the Church, whether it contradicts justification by faith, [and] whether it leads to peace or to a troubled conscience

d. the function of the confessor, in particular whether he is correctly described as the one who announces the unconditional promise of the pardon of sins by God for the sake of Christ, or whether he must also be designated as a physician, guide of souls, one who established the order of creation, which was disturbed by sin, and a judge

2. In answer to these questions the Council of Trent taught the following points about sacramental confession:

a. It serves the spiritual good and salvation of man, and this without necessarily leading to the disturbance of conscience: on the contrary, the fruit of this sacrament is frequently peace of joy of conscience, and comfort of the soul (DS 1674, 1682).

b. Confession is a necessary part of the sacrament of penance, and it is not right to reduce the sacrament simply to announcing an unconditional promise of God’s forgiveness through the merits of Christ (DS 1679, 1706, 1709).

c. Confession must be clear and unambiguous where there is question of mortal sins; this obligation does not exist in the case where it is impossible to remember one’s sins (DS 1682, 1707).

d. The integral confession of mortal sins is required by God’s saving will (iure divino), in order that the Church can exercise through the sacred ministry the task of a judge, a physician, a director of souls, and that of reestablishing the order of creation disrupted by sin (DS 1679, 1680, 1685, 1692, 1707).

3. Despite the differences concerning the necessity of the confession of all mortal sins, there is a noteworthy consensus between the Council of Trent (DS 1680, 1682) and the basic writings of the Lutheran confession with regard to the spiritual fruits of the confession of sins and of absolution. This is important in the ecumenical dialogue and can be a point of departure for discussions on differences that still remain.

4. Despite contemporary cultural pluralism, there are lasting real needs common to all men and to which the manifold aid coming to man by God’s pity from the sacrament of penance provides even today the best answer:

a. healing of spiritual diseases

b. growth in one’s personal spiritual life

c. being an occasion for the reestablishment of the order disturbed by sin, and for promoting justice, as this is demanded by the social nature of both sin and forgiveness

d. the effective attribution of the forgiveness of sins by God and by the Church in a time in which there often is enmity between men and among nations

e. placing one’s sins and state of mind before the judgment of the Church, which by its pastoral ministry watches over the authenticity of conversion to God and to the Church

5. Since these human and spiritual needs are real and in the sacrament of penance means of salvation answering to them have been given by God, the confession of grave sins, which, after a careful examination of his conscience, the sinner remembers, must have in virtue of God’s saving will (iure divino) an indispensable place in obtaining the absolution. If not, the Church cannot accomplish the tasks assigned to it by Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit (iure divino), viz., the service of a physician, direction of souls, the advocacy of justice and love in private as well as in public life, heralding the divine promises of forgiveness and peace in a world often dominated by sin and animosity, a judgment of the authenticity of the conversion to God and to the Church.

6. The integral confession of mortal sins, therefore, necessarily belongs to the sacrament of penance (iure divino), and thus it is not left to the judgment of the individual or to the decision of the Church. However, the Council of Trent does acknowledge the concept of a sacramental confession in voto (DS 1543). For this reason, in extraordinary emergency situations in which such an integral confession is not possible, the Church can allow the postponement of the confession and grant the absolution individually or in a group (general absolution), without previous confession. In such a situation the Church acts with the spiritual possibilities of the moment, but must see to it that mortal sins are confessed subsequently and must instruct the faithful about this obligation by appropriate means. The Council of Trent does not itself pronounce on the nature and extent of these emergency situations.

To solve difficult pastoral problems the extension, recommended by many, of the situations mentioned in the Normae pastorales of 1972 and in the Ordo paenitentiae is not the only possible solution. For situations in which there is no copia confessorum (DS 1661) the Council rather points to the efficacy of contrition for reconciliation, made perfect by love (conditio), which grants reconciliation with God when it includes the votum sacramenti and hence the votum confessionis (DS 1677). How the Church should proceed in this matter concretely on the basis of the doctrine of the Council of Trent is a question of pastoral prudence and love (cf. on this below, C, II, 4).

C. REFLECTIONS ON SOME QUESTIONS THAT ARE OF IMPORTANCE FOR THE PRACTICE OF THE SACRAMENT

I. Unity and Diversity of the Forms of Penance

1. There are certain forms of penance in pre- and extrabiblical religion. They attest the presence in humanity of a primitive knowledge about guilt and the need of redemption. The Christian message of penance and reconciliation presupposes that once and for all penance and satisfaction have been made by Jesus Christ in the obedient ministry of his life and death on the Cross. Christian penance, therefore, is chiefly distinguished from the practice of penance in other religions by the fact that it lets itself be determined by the Spirit of Jesus Christ and brings it to expression under the signs of the personal attitude of penance and in bodily works of penance.

For this reason the Christian forms of penance must be animated at least inchoately and in nucleo by faith, hope, and love. Faith above all is the ground, the permanent center, and the principle of life for Christian penance. Hope gives the converted the firm confidence that he may proceed with God s help on the road of conversion and so attain eschatological salvation. Connected with this is the so-called gradualism of the character of penance: it may start with “lower” motivations: fear of punishment, fear of Gods judgment, etc. (cf. DS 1526, 1678), and from these ascend to the “higher” motivations.

Love of God and of one’s neighbor is the deepest motive for repentance for the baptized, for his conversion, and for his passage to a new life (DS 1526, 1676). From this comes a new way of living in community with God and with ones fellowmen (cf. above all A, II, 2f.; B, HI, 2, 4).

2. Although the forms of Christian penance and of forgiveness of sins are many, there is, despite this pluriformity, a structural unity of the entire process: insight into one’s personal guilt or into that of the community, repentance for what has been done or omitted, confession of ones guilt, willingness to change ones life (including, where possible, a basically necessary reparation for inflicted damage), prayer for forgiveness, [and] reception of the gift of reconciliation (absolution). The praxis of confession, therefore, is, in the several forms of penance, a dynamic process with a coherent structure. The pastoral education for and the catechesis of reconciliation must consequently keep in mind the whole as well as the balance of individual elements.

3. Penance, although one, unfolds itself in a variety of ways. Holy Scripture and the Fathers stress the three basic forms that go together: fasting, praying, and charity (Tob 12:8, referred to in DS 1543). Origen (Hom. in Lev. 2, 4) and Cassian (Coll. patrum 20, 8) present more detailed lists of forms of the forgiving of sins. Besides the effects of the grace of baptism and the suffering of martyrdom, which are fundamental, they mention among others, reconciliation with one’s brother, the tears of penance, care for the salvation of ones neighbor, the intercession of the saints, and love.

In the living Tradition of the Church, the reading of holy Scripture and the recital of the Our Father are added to this. We should, however, also mention the factual conversion in one’s daily life, inspired by faith, for instance, the change of attitude and mentality, speaking with others in a community on guilt and sin, gestures of reconciliation, correctio fraterna, [and] a confession in view of reconciliation; certain forms of spiritual direction are of the nature to redeem sins, as for instance the révision de vie, the capitulum culpae, a talk with ones spiritual director, [and] confession to staretz in connection with monastic practice. The ethical consequences of a new direction of life should not be forgotten: a change in ones living style, asceticism and manifold renouncement, acts of charity, works of mercy, expiation, and vicarious suffering.

The liturgical forms of the forgiveness of sins consist not only in penitential celebrations but also in meditation and prayer, the intercession of the Church, and the Liturgy of the Hours, in reading the meditation of holy Scripture, and in the celebration of the Eucharist (cf. DS 1743 and below, C, IV, 1). In addition to the specifically sacramental forms of forgiveness of sins (cf. the three celebrations in the Ordo paenitentiae), the three ways of carrying out remission in the present discipline of penance should also be recalled (cf. the absolutio a censuris and the dispensatio ab irregularitae in the Ordo paenitentiae, appendix 1). The times and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year are more particular occasions on which the Church performs the ministry of penance.

II. Individual Confessions, Reconciliation Services, General Absolution

1. Awareness of the wealth and multiplicity of the forms of penance has often grown dim. It must therefore be made stronger and receive attention both in preaching and in the pastoral practice of penance. Isolating the sacrament of penance from the context of the entire Christian life, which is inspired by the spirit of reconciliation, leads to an atrophy of the sacrament itself. Narrowing down the ministry of reconciliation to only a few forms can make one coresponsible for the crisis in the sacrament of penance and the well-known dangers of ritualism, and of a reduction to the state of a private exercise of piety.

The various means of reconciliation should, therefore, not be placed in competition with each other. Rather, the intrinsic unity and dynamic relationship between the individual forms of penance should be explained and made visible. The forms mentioned above (cf. C, I, 3) are shown above all to be useful for “venial sins”. Forgiveness of sins can indeed be granted in many ways: forgiveness of the sins of everyday life is always given when contrition informed by love is present (contritio) (cf. DS 1677).

2. To the extent that the forms of penance mentioned above and the dimensions of reconciliation are practiced more clearly and in a more convincing way in the daily life of the Christian, the desire for sacramental private confession is also bound to increase. Above all grave sins must be expressed in the most individual and comprehensive way possible before the Church and its official representatives. A general confession of sins is not sufficient, because the sinner must, inasmuch as possible, give concrete expression to the truth of his guilt and the nature of his sins, and also because such an individual, personal confession of guilt strengthens and deepens true contrition. Both anthropological (A, II, 3) and theological (B, III, 4; B, IV, c, 2 and 5f.) considerations favor this thesis.

Sacramental power is needed to forgive such sins. It is true that today the authentic form of private confession needs to be profoundly renewed in its spiritual aspects, and this in connection with the revised Ordo paenitentiae. Without such a renewal the Church will not be able to cope with the crisis of the sacrament of penance. For this a better spiritual and theological formation of priests is required, in order that they may be able to deal with what is now demanded from confession, viz., the latter should contain more elements of spiritual direction and of fraternal exchange. Under this aspect the so-called confession of devotion retains its importance.

3. The term celebrationes paenitentiales is often understood in different ways. Among such penitential celebrations one thinks principally of the liturgical celebrations of a congregation in which the call to penance and the promise of reconciliation are given expression, and a general confession of sins takes place without individual confession or an individual or general absolution. This type of penitential celebration can help place the community aspects of sin and forgiveness more to the foreground. They can awaken and deepen the spirit of penance and reconciliation. How ever, they must not be placed on the same level as the sacrament of penance, much less replace it.

In their orientation these penitential celebrations are certainly directed toward sacramental private confession, but they do not merely have the function of inviting to conversion and creating the dispositions required for the sacrament: with regard to daily sins, they can become a true occasion of pardon, provided there is a real spirit of conversion and sufficient contrition (contritio). In this way the celebrationes paenitentiales may acquire an efficacious significance for salvation, even if they are not a sacramental form of penance.

4. The Ordo paenitentiae also mentions a common celebration of reconciliation with a general confession and general absolution. This presupposes ethically and juridically unambiguous norms that must be observed in pastoral work (cf. the Normae pastorales circa absolutionem sacramentalem generali modo impertiendam of 1972, and the Ordo paenitentiae, Pastoral Introduction, 35).

It follows from this that this form of sacramental reconciliation applies to extraordinary situations of emergency As current praxis has occasionally shown, the granting of general absolution outside such extraordinary emergency situations easily leads to basic misunderstandings of a fundamental nature about the essence of the sacrament of penance, and in particular about the basic necessity of personal confession of sins, the efficacy of sacramental absolution, which presupposes contrition, and at least the votum confessionis. This type of misunderstanding and the ensuing abuses damage the spirit of the sacrament of reconciliation.

The difficult and even somewhat dramatic pastoral situations in many parts of the Church today mean that many faithful hardly have the possibility of receiving the sacrament of penance. In these critical situations it is indispensable to show the faithful concerned ways that will enable them to have access to the forgiveness of sins and to receiving the Eucharist. In these cases the Tradition of the Church, confirmed by the Council of Trent, acknowledges the possibility of a Christian obtaining the forgiveness of grave sin by perfect contrition. According to the same Tradition perfect contrition also always implies the desire (votum) of receiving the sacrament of penance as soon as possible (DS 1677).

Where there is no copia confessorum, such a perfect contrition is probably a sufficient disposition for receiving the Eucharist, according to the doctrine of the Council of Trent (DS 1661; cf. above, B, IV, c, 6). In most situations of such pastoral emergency this possibility is more suitable than general absolution, because in this way the obligation to the later personal confession can be made psychologically more understandable to most of the faithful. The ecclesial dimension of such a perfect act of contrition can be expressed by the penitential celebrations we mentioned above.

5. The contemporary crisis of penance and of the sacrament of penance cannot be solved by stressing only one form of penance, but only by means of a view that takes into account the complex relationships between the different forms of penance and how they mutually complement each other. In this matter it will also be important to integrate in a better way the individual forms of penance into the administration of the sacrament of penance, in order to bring sacramental penance more forcefully into the consciousness of the faithful.

III. Sin, Grave Sin, Venial Sins

1. Conversion, as a turning away from sin and a turning to God, presupposes an awareness that sin is outside of and contrary to salvation. The contemporary crisis of the sacrament of penance is intimately connected with a crisis in the sense of and understanding of sin, as can be seen in many parts of the world. The fact that the pastoral efforts of the Church (in sermons, catechesis, personal talks, for example) in many ways have not been as good as they ought also plays a role in this contemporary crisis for a good number of Christians (cf. above, A, I, 2). Therefore it is necessary to express again the authentic, Christian understanding of sin. It is true that holy Scripture does not provide a proper definition of sin, but it nevertheless brings a rich variety of individual statements, which, in many ways, and with regard to different aspects, contain an interpretation of sin. Thus in holy Scripture, among other things, sin is called:

a. being outside of salvation (hamartia): atheism, refusal to acknowledge God (Rom 1:18ff.), a breaking of the alliance with God.

b. opposition to the revealed will of God (anomia): contradiction of the law of God and his Commandments.

c. injustice (adikia): the refusal to live in the justice that God has given.

d. falsehood and darkness (pseudos, skotos): opposition to the truth of God, to Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6), to one s fellowmen, and to the truth of being man. He who sins does not come into the truth of being man. He who sins does not come into the light but remains in darkness (cf. also above, B, I, 1-3).

Against this background it becomes clear that every sin stands in a relationship with God: it is an aversion from God and his will, and it makes created things absolute. The sense and the understanding of sin can only be developed with the conjunction of preaching about God and his message of salvation. For this it is necessary that the sense of God is renewed and deepened. One can understand how it is that only God can forgive sins only if it is made clear that sin stands in a relation to God.

2. Already in the parenesis and the practice of penance of the early Christian communities distinctions concerning the nature of sins were made:

a. sins that exclude from the Kingdom of God, such as leading an immoral life, idolatry, adultery, pederasty, avarice, and so on (cf. 1 Cor 6:9f.), and that also lead to exclusion from the community (cf. 1 Cor 5:1-13) (cf. above, B, III, 4)

b. the so-called daily sins (peccata quotidiana)

The fundamental difference between grave and nongrave sins is taught by the entire Tradition of the Church, even if important differences in terminology and in the appraisal of individual sins occur.

Attempts are often made to replace this division into grave sins and nongrave sins, or to complete it by the threefold distinction between crimina (peccata capitalia), peccata gravia, and peccata venialia. This tripartite division has its justification on the phenomenological and descriptive levels. On the theological level, however, we may not obscure the fundamental distinction between the “Yes” and “No” to God, between the state of grace, life, and communion and friendship with God on the one hand, and the state of sin, aversion from God, on the other hand, which leads to the loss of eternal life. For from the nature of both types of sins it follows that there cannot be a third between them. In this way the traditional dual distinction gives expression to the serious character of man s moral decision.

3. With these distinctions and divisions of the earlier centuries, the Church has already taken into account—each time in the ways of thinking and the forms of expression of a particular period—that which today is of importance in the contemporary insights and circumstances in doctrinal proclamations of the Magisterium and in theological reflection.

a. From the subjective side, the freedom of the human person must be seen from the point of view of its relation to God. Thus at the very center of his being as a person, man has the possibility of saying “No” to God as a basic decision. This then becomes a fundamental decision concerning the meaning of his existence. This fundamental decision takes place in mans heart, in the midst of his personal being. But on the level of man s existence in time and space, it is mediated by concrete acts in which this fundamental decision expresses itself in a more or less complete way. To this must be added that on account of his fractured existence, which was made so by original sin, even while maintaining his fundamental “Yes” to God, man can live with “a divided heart”; i.e., he can live and act without engaging himself fully.

b. From the objective side, there are on the one hand the Commandments that are of grave obligation, with the obligation to an act in which one gives himself entirely, and on the other hand the Commandments that only impose a light obligation. Transgressions of these latter Commandments can ordinarily be called sin in an analogous sense only, but they may nevertheless not be considered insignificant. For even such acts are part of a free decision and can become the expression of a fundamental decision.

4. The Church teaches this theological understanding of grave sin when it speaks about it as a revolt against God, a refusal of God, and a turning of oneself toward created things. It does so when it considers a grave sin that contradicts Christian love or the order of creation willed by God in an important matter, above all in the violation of the dignity of the human person.

The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith stresses this second aspect in referring to the answer Jesus gave to the young man who asked him: “Master, what must I do to possess eternal life?” Jesus said to him: “If you wish to enter eternal life, keep the Commandments.” He said: “Which?’’ Jesus replied: “You must not kill. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not bear false witness. Honor your father and your mother and love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 19:16-19) (cf. the Declaration on Some Questions of Sexual Ethics [1975], 10).

In conformity with this doctrine of the Church, the fundamental option determines in the last analysis the moral condition of man. But the concept of fundamental option is not a criterion that allows one to distinguish concretely between grave and venial sins. The concept, rather, is a help to make the nature of grave sin theologically clear. Although basically man can express his option or change it in a single act, viz., in those cases in which this act is done with full awareness and complete freedom, it is not necessary that this fundamental option in its entirety enter into each individual act, so that each sin does not have to be, eo ipso, a revision of an (explicit or implicit) fundamental option.

According to the ecclesiastical and theological Tradition, a grave sin is not so readily possible, and is not what is normal for a Christian who lives in the state of grace and who earnestly takes part in the sacramental life of the Church. The reason for this is the “gravity pull” of grace (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, De veritate, q. 27, 1 ad 9).

IV. Penance and the Eucharist

1. The question of the relationship between penance and the Eucharist places before us two facts in the Tradition of the Church that seem to contradict each other but that in reality are enriched owing to this tension, a.

a. On the one hand the Eucharist is the sacrament of unity and of love for Christians who live in grace. The early Church only admitted to holy Communion Christians who, when they had committed sins that lead to death, had been reconciled after their public penance. For the same reason the Council of Trent demands that he who is aware of having committed a grave sin should not receive holy Communion or celebrate the Mass before having received the sacrament of penance (DS 1647, 1661). However, the Council does not say that this is iure divino; rather, it transposes the obligation to examine oneself to the level of discipline—so as to eat this bread and drink this cup only after having done this (1 Cor 11:28). Therefore, this obligation can admit of an exception, for instance, when there is no copia confessorum; in this case, however, contributors must include the votum sacramenti (cf. above, B, IV, c, 6; II, 4). Nevertheless, the Council does not accept the broader interpretation of Cajetan (DS 1661). Therefore the Eucharist is no alternative to penance in the Church.

b. On the other hand, the Eucharist does forgive sins. The early Church was convinced that the Eucharist forgives daily sins (cf. the testimony of the ancient liturgies). The Council of Trent also speaks of the Eucharist as a “counterpoison by which we are freed from venial faults and are preserved from grave sins” (DS 1638; cf. 1740). The Eucharist grants the forgiveness of grave sins by means of the grace and the gift of penance (DS 1743), which according to the doctrine of the Council includes sacramental confession at least in voto (cf. above, B, IV, c, 6).

This power of the Eucharist to forgive venial sins has its basis in the fact that it is the memoria, i.e., the sacramental representation (repraesentatio) of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which was once and for all, whose blood was to be poured out in forgiveness of sins (Mt 26:28) (cf. DS 1743).

2. Confession and Communion of children. The education of the conscience of children to the understanding of sin and penance must take into account their age and their experience. The conscience and experience of adults cannot be simply transplanted. Correspondingly, the confession of children as the sacrament of conversion (metanoia) cannot be considered the end of religious instruction. The child will grow in the living understanding of penance precisely by the practice of the sacraments.

CONCLUSION

The renewal of the attitude and of the sacrament of conversion and of reconciliation is connected with the message about God, who is rich in pity (Eph 2:4), and above all with the message of reconciliation that God has given once and for all through the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. This message he keeps permanently present in the Church in the Holy Spirit. The renewal that is conversion and reconciliation only becomes possible, therefore, when we succeed in awakening again the sense of God and in deepening in the Church the spirit of the imitation of Jesus as well as the attitude of faith, hope, and love. The renewal of the sacrament of penance is only possible within the whole made up by the organic structure of all sacraments and forms of penance.

This all-embracing spiritual renewal, which springs up from the heart of the Christian message, includes a renewal of the sense of the personal dignity of man, who by grace is called to community and friendship with God. Only when man converts himself and acknowledges that God is God, and when he lives out of a communion with God, will he discover the true meaning of his own existence. For this reason it is important that in the attempts at a renewal of this sacrament its anthropological dimensions be taken into account, and the inseparable connection between reconciliation with God and reconciliation with the Church and with ones fellowmen is brought about. In this way, in creative faithfulness to the Tradition of the Church, and along the lines of the new Ordo paenitentiae, we can give the sacrament of penance a form that answers to the spiritual needs of man.

Finally, but by no means least in importance, the Church must be by her confession, liturgy, and diakonia the sacrament, that is, the sign and instrument of reconciliation for the world. Through all that which it is and which it believes, it must witness in the Holy Spirit to, and render present, the message of reconciliation that God has given through Jesus Christ.

* This document was approved by the Commission “in forma specifica”.

(http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/cti_documents/rc_cti_1982_riconciliazione-penitenza_en.html)

 

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