12 September 2013

Sermon on the Precept of Yearly Confession

Lenten Sermon Series A.D. 2013 Precepts, 2nd Sunday of Lent

And His face shone as the sun, and His garments became white as snow.”—Matt. 17: 2


Just after announcing his death, our Lord took three of his apostles, Peter, James & John, up to the Mount Tabor. He granted them a vision of his divinity so as to reassure them of his divine mission. Because Christ, from the first moment of his conception, enjoyed the Beatific Vision, his body is resplendent. However since he wanted to seem as ordinary men, he hid his splendor “in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom. 8:3)” & only showed it in this vision at Tabor. The glory of his face & garments express the presence of grace.

Life of Grace in the soul

In us, this divine grace, elevates & sanctifies us. It will transform us “from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18).” We first received it when we were baptized & made children of God. If we persevere in it we will see God face to face in the Beatific Vision.

Confession—restorer of grace

Once we have received sanctifying grace, we cannot lose it unless we commit mortal sin, that is, unless we turn away from God & his commandments in a grave matter. Since our blessed Lord knew of our frailty & the unstableness of our dedication to him, he established the sacrament of Penance as a plank to save us should we make shipwreck of our baptismal grace. For he who has committed mortal sin after baptism, it is the only way for him to escape the fires of hell and reach the blessedness of heaven. It therefore has the power to restore us to divine grace, taking away the hideousness of our sins. And where once we were the enemies of God, it reconciliates us with our Heavenly Father.

Precept of the Church

As a loving mother, Holy Church has a great solicitude for the souls of her children. Not wanting that we remain long in danger of eternal damnation, she has given us a precept in canon 989 of the Code of Canon Law: “After having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess his serious sins (peccata sua gravia) at least once a year.”

The sacred canons give other indications about this obligation: “In order to receive the salvific remedy of the sacrament of Penance, the Christian faithful ought to be so disposed that, having repudiated the sins committed and having a purpose of amendment, they are converted to God. (can. 987)” & “A member of the Christian faithful is obliged to confess in kind (specie) and in number all serious sins committed after Baptism and not yet directly remitted through the keys of the Church nor acknowledged in individual confession, of which one is conscious after a diligent examination of conscience. It is also recommended to the Christian faithful that venial sins also be confessed. (can. 988, §§1&2)”

To fulfill the precept one can go to confession at any time of the year, in any place & to any priest who has faculties to hear confessions.

Those who would be exempt from this precept are 1) they who have not reached the age of reason, & 2) they who have not sinned by grave matter since their last confession.

One would not fulfill the precept by a sacrilegious confession, in other words, one in which a mortal sin is deliberately concealed, or sorrow for sinning & a purpose of amendment are lacking.


By this precept to confess our sins at least once a year, the Church call us to a continual conversion to the Lord and exhorts us to avoid final impenitence. By it she cries out to us, in the words of Saint Catherine of Siena, “Do not despise the Blood of Christ!” Certainly should we fall into grievous sin, we should have recourse to the confessional as soon as possible. Many saints confessed their sins on a regular basis. So much did they, & so should we do likewise, take to heart the words of Saint Paul in today’s epistle: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification...For God has not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness, in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (I Thess. 4)

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