When human love has been betrayed, it is not enough just to feel contrite.
One must also say so, promise to change, and then receive the forgiveness of the other.
It is interesting to note that most psychologists agree on how dangerous it is to mental health to bottle up guilt, and how unloving a relationship becomes when it lacks openness. Similarly, one who has acted contrary to the bond of love with Christ longs to tell him so, and to reaffirm his love and to be forgiven. The contrition should be as loud and concrete as the unloving deed was.... If in human love forgiveness is followed by the embrace of reconciliation, how is this to be duplicated in relationship to Christ, who is not physically present to us?
It must be by virtue of some spiritual presence which is yet concrete enough to serve man's need for the full vivid moment. We cannot show that the Sacrament of Penance is the only way that Christ could have accomplished this result; but perhaps analysis may help us to understand it as an invention of love by considering the words Christ said to his disciples, Whose sins you forgive they are forgiven.
The priest serves not as a particular man — certainly not as a mere busybody, or even as a psychologist of the spirit — but as the visible representative of Christ's forgiving love. This sacrament concretely applies the redemption Christ enacted for those sins which negate, and even sometimes destroy, the bond of love between the soul and God.
Ronda Chervin. "Reconciliation." from Church of Love (Liguori, Missouri: Liguori Publications, 1973).
Reprinted by permission of the author, Ronda Chervin. Church of Love is out of print.
This excerpt appeared in Magnificat.
Ronda Chervin teaches at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. She converted to the Catholic Faith from a Jewish, though atheistic, background and has been a Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Loyola Marymount University, the Seminary of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and Franciscan University of Steubenville. She is the author of some sixty books including Healing of Rejection with the Help of the Lord: A Survivor's Guide, Avoiding Bitterness in Suffering: How Our Heroes in Faith Found Peace Amid Sorrow, Catholic Realism: A Framework for the Refutation of Atheism and the Evangelization of Atheists, What The Saints Said About Heaven: 101 Holy Insights On Everlasting Life, and Holding Hands with God: Catholic Women Share Their Stories of Courage.Copyright © 1973 Ronda Chervin
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