Thursday, February 18, 2010

Penance and Reparation, part I

"Penance and reparation are the consequence of sin. Or again, penance and reparation are the price we have to pay for our own and other people's sin. Penance and reparation, finally, are what God requires from sinners as a condition for showing them His mercy.

In order to better understand the meaning of penance and reparation, we have to look for a moment at what happens whenever we sin. Two things happen:
  • First: we incur guilt before God for the self-will that caused us to sin. We become more or less separated or estranged from God, depending on the gravity of our sin.
  • Second: We deserve punishment for the disorder we cause by our sinful conduct. We become liable to suffering pain, again more or less pain, depending on how seriously we have done wrong.
Against this background, we can more easily see the meaning of penance and reparation.

  • Penance is the repentance we must make to remove the guilt, or to reinstate ourselves in God's friendship.
  • Reparation is the pain we must endure to make up for the harm we brought about by our self-indulgence when we sinned.
What then do penance and reparation have in common? They have this in common, that they are absolutely necessary if the justice of God is to be satisfied after we have offended the divine Majesty. They also have this in common, that God now has a right to demand more of us than He would have required had we not committed sin. The word more is basic to any correct understanding of penance and reparation.

But if penance and reparation have this in common, how do they differ? They differ, as we have seen, in the two different ways that we do wrong whenever we sin. Because we have failed in loving God, we now owe Him more love than He would have required had we not offended Him. We did wrong by our willful love of self. So now we have to make up by our selfless love of God. This is Penance.

And because we have brought disorder into the world by our sins, we must undergo pain to undo this harm we have caused. This is reparation."

-- Penance and Reparation: A Lenten Meditation Fr John A Hardon, SJ
Copyright © 2003 by Inter Mirifica

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