Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time, it damages communion with the Church. For this reason, conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which is expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. (CCC 1440)
There are four steps in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation:
- We feel contrition for our sins and a conversion of heart to change our ways.
- We confess our sins and human sinfulness to a priest.
- We receive and accept forgiveness (absolution) and are absolved of our sins.
- We celebrate God’s everlasting love and commit to living out a Christian life.
The Spiritual effects of the Sacrament of Reconciliation include:
- Reconciliation with God by which the penitent recovers grace.
- Reconciliation with the Church.Remission of the eternal punishment incurred by mortal sins.
- Remission, at least in part, of temporal punishments resulting from sin.
- Peace and serenity of conscience, and spiritual consolation.
- An increase of spiritual strength for the Christian battle (CCC 1498).
A mature understanding of sin includes reflecting upon our thoughts, actions, and omissions as well as examining the patterns of sin that may arise in our lives. With contrite hearts, we are also called to reflect upon the effects of our sins upon the wider community and how we might participate in sinful systems.