“Now that we have examined the great danger in universalism – and in denying that the price of sin is eternal seperation from God unless we embrace the call to repentance of sin and living in the Way of Jesus Christ – how do we move into the joy and the hope, as well as the freedom, that comes from true repentance and turning to Christ? In the simplest of terms, the answer to how we go about this is to live out our Catholic faith in Word and Sacrament. The Word of God in the Sacred Scriptures nurtures us throughout this journey and points us always to truth; and the sacraments – instituted by Christ Himself – offer us encounters with God’s grace that strengthen us along the way, changing us from sinner to saved.

As we deepen our understanding of the sacraments, and in particular the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Reconciliation (also called Confession or Penance) we are drawn more deeply into the metanoia we are all called to embrace. These three sacraments in particular build on one another as our relationship with Jesus Christ grows. While the Church acknowledges that God is sovereign and therefore, He is not bound to dispensing His grace through the sacraments alone, we recognise that the sacraments are essential for the Christian life and are the ordinary means that God has given to us so that we may receive sanctifying grace and the salvation He won for us on the cross.

Baptism of course is the necessary sacrament of our initial repentance, conversion, and incorporation into the Christian life. It frees us from original sin and gives us sanctifying grace, allowing us to share in His life and love. A beautiful and essential element of the Church’s teaching is the indelible (permanent) character that Baptism confers on a person; one can never be unbaptized. In the Nicene Creed we recite at mass, we confess “one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” The great consolation here is that once configured to Christ, we can always return to Him no matter how far we have wandered away in our sinfulness, if only we repent and confess our sins. Thus, Baptism permanently configures us to Christ and gives us the grace to live this new relationship.

Confirmation is most profoundly a strengthening of the original gift of life in the Holy Spirit that we receive at Baptism. Pentecost as described in the Acts of the Apostles can be understood as the Confirmation of the Apostles in the Holy Spirit, and we can see clearly the spiritual strength they received as they formed the Church in Her beginnings. We are blessed with the very same gifts of the Holy Spirit when we are confirmed, and this sacrament gives us the strength to constantly turn from sin and grow closer to the Sacred Heart of Christ.

Finally, the Sacrament of Renconciliation (or Confession or Penance) can be described as the sacrament of continuing metanoia. We all stumble in sinfulness and are called to humbly confess our sins and strive for deeper holiness. In our ongoing journey of faith, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is of critical importance, and we all need to understand that it is a loving encounter with the same Jesus Christ who we receive in the Eucharist. The beauty of this sacrament is that it expresses God’s abundant mercy and emphasizes that He never “takes pleasure in the death of the wicked” but constantly gives them the opportunity to “turn from their ways and live.” (Ezek 33:11). As the Catechism states: “Those who approach the sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.” (CCC 1422).

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