EUCHARIST & RECONCILIATION
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Of all the things we do as Christians (feeding the poor, reading the Bible, praying, etc.), the Mass is the most important. The Mass is the deepest expression of Christ's love for us and there is no deeper way to experience Him.
Christ is not a passive participant at the Mass, rather He is involved in many ways. We meet Jesus in the Scriptural readings, the gathered community of baptized people, the priest who stands as the person of Christ, and in the Real Presence, His Body and Blood, the Eucharist. The Catholic Church stands as one of the only Christian institutions (along with the Orthodox) to take Jesus' words at their face value, that what we eat at Mass is not just a symbol of Christ's Body, but it is His Body (John 6:53-57).
The Mass is not just about 'me and Jesus'. The Mass, or Eucharistic liturgy, is not a private get-together, but is the family dinner of all of God's people (Revelation 19:9). To miss Mass would be like not showing up to your family Christmas dinner - going off and doing your own thing. We are invited by Jesus to be at His meal, to share in His Body, to be with our brothers and sisters: Why would we say no to Him?
Not only is the Mass the gathering of God's children, but the Mass unites us with Christ's sacrifice on the Cross, the sacrifice that gave us salvation. It also unites us with all those who have ever participated in the Eucharistic celebration. It is the source of all grace, God's life, and gives us spiritual food to nourish our relationship with Jesus. So, it is important to talk about the Mass as a sacrifice, uniting us with Christ's death and Resurrection (His Paschal Mystery) (Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26).
On our part, it is important to take the sacrament seriously, and to know that our actions and how we live our lives make it important for us to receive the Eucharist in a worthy state (1 Corinthians 11:27-28). The reason God gives us His flesh to eat is so we can have eternal life with Him. That gift requires a response on our part. If we really believe that we are taking God into our bodies, then our entire lives will take upon a different dimension: We are given the responsibility to bring God to others, to be lights for Jesus to all those we meet in our lives, and to live a holy life.
To ensure that we are prepared to receive the Eucharist in a worthy state we must frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The Sacrament of Confession (Reconciliation) is not a man-made institution, but is another gift from Christ Himself to us. In God's eyes, the biggest problem we have is sin. There is nothing that can eternally separate us from Him except sin, which is our action and decision to go against Him. The Sacrament of Confession removes all of our sins after Baptism. It requires that we come to it truly sorry for our sins, and that we make up for them (James 5:16).
Christ gave the power to forgive sins to His Apostles, their successors (bishops) and their delegates (priests) (John 20:22-23). He did this on purpose. He wanted us to have the experience of going to His representative, His stand-in, who would utter His words: I absolve you of all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. When we go to Confession, we have a guaranteed meeting with Christ, and guaranteed forgiveness of sins. Nothing else guarantees receiving God's forgiveness the way Confession does.
When we sin, we hurt ourselves, other people, and we offend God. Sins are never just between 'me and God'. Sins break the family bond between God and man. Thus, to heal the break we caused in God's family, we must go to God (who asks us to go to His representative, the priest), and if possible and to the person we harmed.
We should go to Confession as often as we commit mortal sins, those that break our relationship with God, or monthly to confess venial sins, those which hurt, but not break, our relationship with God (1 John 5:16-17).
After the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are required by God to make up for the harm we have done. This is done through penance, which takes away the damaging effects of sin. Penance is done by making amends by reconciling with those we have harmed and praying to God that He will bring good out of our actions. This is why the priest usually gives us some type of prayer for a penance. To be truly sorry, we are also called to sin no more. Penance is for us, to make us holy: It is not for God.