Fifth Sunday in Lent

REVISED ORDER OF PENANCE. In Part 5 of my miniseries on the ‘Order of Penance’ I reflect on the revised Prayers of the Penitent – aka – Acts of Contrition. But do not fret or worry, for the rubric before these prayers specifically states that “The Priest then invites the Penitent to express his/her contrition, which the Penitent may do in these or similar words.” [I underscored the word similar.] So, whatever version you learned and memorized will still work; and be sure that God does NOT withhold forgiveness or mercy from those who forget or make mistakes as they pray their Act of Contrition!

Here is the revised translation of the prayer we have provided at Penance Services and in our Confessional:

The Revised Act of Contrition

O my God, I am sorry
and repent with all my heart
for all the wrong I have done
and for the good I have failed to do,
because by sinning I have offended you,
who are all good
and worthy to be loved above all things.

I firmly resolve, with the help of your grace,
to do penance, to sin no more,
and to avoid the occasions of sin.

Through the merits of the Passion
of our Savior Jesus Christ, Lord, have mercy.

Notice the slight but significant difference in the revised translation and the former one below:

The previous/former Act of Contrition

My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart.

In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good,
I have sinned against you
whom I should love above all things.

I firmly intend, with your help,
to do penance, to sin no more,
and to avoid whatever leads me to sin.

Our Savior, Jesus Christ,
suffered and died for us.
In his name, my God, have mercy.

“… I am sorry and repent.” The two words, ‘and repent’ has been restored to the first line, for simply being sorry is not enough! We must also repent or redirect ourselves, learn new ways to deal with temptation, break away from the past.

“… because by sinning I have offended you …” not simply “I have sinned.” Our actions, or lack thereof, have consequences, the worst of which is: sin offends the God of Love. We have not simply disobeyed a rule, broke a law, or failed to live up to an ideal: we have broken Someone’s heart. We have disappointed Someone who knows we can do better! So, no matter what our sin is … it always offends God!

“… with the help of your grace replaces and expands on the briefer phrase, “with your help” – for everything God offers is a grace or unearned gift, granted to us for the purposes intended by the Gift-giver: God. We who ask to BE forgiven MUST, in turn, FORGIVE OTHERS! Nor should we ever presume on God’s mercy; that, too, is a sin!

“… Through the merits … have mercy” versus “Our Savior … have mercy.” As with many of the revised translations of our orations, we speak more directly, reverently, humbly TO God rather than ABOUT God. The revised translations are also less of a directive, or as was the case in some orations, a command, telling God what to do or not do! So, after respectfully recalling how, through His Passion and Death by which Jesus won our redemption, we mercifully request that God share these graces with us sinners.

THE SHORTEST ACT OF CONTRITION. The only Act of Contrition that was not altered in the recent revision may be the best one to memorize:

My personal favorite Act of Contrition

Lord Jesus, Son of God,
have mercy on me, a sinner.

Based on a tax collector’s humble request: “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” [Luke 18:13b] this mantra, or variations of it, called ‘The Jesus Prayer,’ is prayed by Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Protestant Christians. May our celebration of this year’s Holy Week bring us all closer to the Sacred Heart of our Savior Jesus Christ. Confessions are THIS Sunday, March 26, from 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm!

With God’s love and my prayers,

Very Rev. Michael J. Kreder, VF, KCHS