The Third Rite. Should it be first?

Alec Fraser
Which of the three Rites of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is best suited to our need to ?say sorry? and be forgiven? A priest reflects on his experiences of conducting all three services. Alec Fraser is a retired priest of the Southwark diocese.

For many centuries the sacrament of penance, or the sacrament of reconciliation as it is now called, has been understood as a sacrament to restore the individual sinner to God?s friendship. The penitent went to the priest for absolution, motivated very often by fear of damnation and an understanding of God as a hard master quick to punish and slow to forgive. God?s love was seen as conditional on obedience to his will. Sin was regarded as an offence to God for which reparation had to be made and such reparation was made by the life and death of Jesus. Such a view sits uneasily with the Gospel story summed up in the passage from John 3.16-17: ?For God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life.

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