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Who instituted the Sacrament of Penance ?

Jesus himself instituted the sacrament of penance when he showed himself to his apostles on Easter day and commanded 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” (Jn20:22a-23) Nowhere did Jesus express more beautifully what happens in the sacrament of penance than in the parable of the Prodigal Son. We got astray; we are lost and can no longer cope. Yet our father waits for us with great, indeed infinite longing; he forgives us when we come back; he takes us again, forgives our sins. Jesus himself forgave the sins of many individuals; it was more important to him than working miracles. He regarded this as the great sign of the dawning of the kingdom of God, in which all wounds are healed and all tears are wiped away. Jesus forgave sins in the power of the Holy Spirit and he handed that power on to his Apostles. We fall into the arms of our heavenly father when we go to a priest and confess. (Youcat- 227) God alone can forgive sins. Jesus could say “your sins are forgiven” (Mk2:5). Only because he is the son of God and priests can forgive sins in Jesus’ place only because Jesus has given them that authority. Many people say “I can directly go to God; why do I need a priest?” God though wants it otherwise. We rationalize our sins away and like to sweep things under the rug. That is why God wants us to tell our sins and to acknowledge them in personal encounter. Therefore the following words from the Gospel are true of priests: “if you forgive the sins away, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins away, they are retained” (Jn20:23) [Youcat-228]


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