Session 16: Forgiveness, Healing and Mission

Resources for participants

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

16A

  • Do you think forgiveness is possible? Can you give any examples? (Without sharing anything too personal!)
  • Why is it hard to overcome our sins and bad habits? What can help us? (Without giving too much personal detail!)
  • What positive experiences have you had of going to confession? (Please don’t share your actual sins!)
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

16B

  • When someone is sick, what kind of support do they most need?
  • As a society in general, and as a Christian community, how do you think we can reach out more to help the sick?
  • Do you have any experiences of healing, whether physical or psychological or spiritual?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

16C

  • What’s your experience of talking about religion or sharing your faith with others? Is it easy or difficult?
  • How have other people shared their Christian faith with you or witnessed to what they believe?
  • How, practically, could you share your own faith with others? What holds you back?
  • What other ideas or questions strike you from this part of the film?

 

READINGS FROM THE YOUCAT FOR THIS SESSION

If you are using the YouCat with your Sycamore group, please click here for general advice about the YouCat and how to use the readings. Here are the readings that go with this week’s Sycamore session:

  • #312 to #320 – knowing our sinfulness [3 pages]
  • #224 to #247 – the Sacrament of Penance (“Confession”) and the Anointing of the Sick [11 pages]

NB the numbers (#) refer to paragraph numbers in the YouCat and not to page numbers. The number in [square brackets] at the end tells you roughly how long this passage is in terms of the pages you need to read (excluding picture pages).

 

LONGER READINGS FROM THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

If you have more time, and if you want to go deeper into the topic of this session, you can follow up by exploring the longer Catechism of the Catholic Church. See the standard online version here, and a digital “flip-book” edition here. Here are the readings that go with this week’s Sycamore session:

NB the numbers (#) refer to paragraph numbers in the Catechism and not to page numbers. Click on the links themselves to read the paragraphs in the online version.

 

KEY IDEAS FROM THE FILM

16A – Forgiveness and the Sacrament of Confession

Jesus said to his Apostles, ‘If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven…’ (John 20:23). Catholics believe that this ministry of forgiveness continues today in the sacrament of penance (often known as “confession”), when the priest acts in the name of Jesus and of the whole Church.

The first and most fundamental sacrament of forgiveness is actually baptism. Then the Eucharist brings us God’s forgiveness for our minor faults. But the sacrament of confession renews the grace of baptism in a powerful way. And if we have committed any serious sins, then we need to go to confession in order to be reconciled with God and the Church.

Confession is not a barrier that comes between us and God: it’s actually a gateway that allows us to meet Jesus, heart to heart, face to face, through the ministry of the priest. We are touched by God’s mercy in a very personal and direct way.

We are forgiven and set free. We are reconciled with God and with his Church. We can make a new start. And we know that the priest will never, ever betray our sins to anyone, for any reason. This is called the “seal of confession”.

Confession also brings healing for all the damaging effects of sin. God can begin to put things right and mend what was broken. Things you never thought could be fixed. And confession can bring peace, consolation, joy and spiritual strength as we go out to live our Christian faith.

Coming to confession is not complicated. You can pray for God’s help. Spend a few minutes thinking about your life and examining your conscience. Find out when confession is taking place at your local Catholic church. And go.

Don’t be anxious: the priest will help you if you get stuck. Tell him when you last went to confession. Then tell him your sins. And at the end, tell him when you have finished.

The priest will give you a penance to fulfil, later on. This is often a simple prayer, as a sign of putting things right and wanting to make a new start. He will ask you to say a prayer of sorrow, called “an act of contrition”. If you don’t know one he will help you. Then he will give you God’s forgiveness by saying the words of absolution and making the sign of the cross.

That’s it. Just make sure that you are being honest with God and with the priest, and don’t hide any serious sins. God will do the rest.

16B – Healing and the Sacrament of the Sick

One of the sacraments is called the Anointing of the Sick. In his New Testament letter, St James writes: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:14). And today a Catholic priest will anoint those who are very sick or close to death, using olive oil that has been specially blessed by a bishop.

This sacrament brings forgiveness. It helps the sick person to stay close to Jesus. It brings them consolation and peace, and helps them offer up their sufferings to God for the good of others. It can bring physical and mental healing to the sick person, if it is God’s will.

The sacrament also helps the dying person to prepare for a happy death, at peace with the Lord. And through the ministry of the priest, it allows the sick person to receive the support of the Church, and to know that they are not alone or forgotten.

Sickness is a terrible burden. But with the help of Christ it is possible to bear. Those who are sick need our love and our personal help. They also need the spiritual help offered by the Church. That’s why the sacrament of the sick is such a gift.

There are many other ways that we need healing as well. There can be painful memories or psychological wounds. There can be difficult relationships or tensions within a marriage or a family. We can struggle with jealousy, resentment, misunderstanding, or anger; with bad habits or addictions; with unfulfilled dreams or frustrated ambitions; with an unwillingness to forgive.

Jesus wants to bring help and healing to all these different situations. It doesn’t mean he takes away all our problems like a magician. But he steps into our life. He gives us reassurance and hope. He begins to put things right.

16C – Christian mission and the call to share our faith

Pope Francis says that every Christian is called to be a “missionary disciple”. We are sent out on a mission to share our faith with others. Another word for this is “evangelisation”, which literally means “to share good news”.

Here are three reasons why you can’t be a Christian without sharing your faith.

First: joy. If you receive great news, you want to share it with people. It’s natural.  So if the Christian message is true, how could you not want to share it with others?

Second: love. If you really care for someone, you want to help them. One of the greatest gifts you could give them is your faith. Not to impose anything, but to share what is truly important. It’s an act of love.

Third: obedience. This is simply what Jesus asks. He tells us not to hide our light under a bucket. He tells us to make disciples of all nations, teaching and baptising as we go. This is not an optional extra, it’s a fundamental part of being a Christian.

Sometimes we witness to others just by our example. We don’t always need words. We just live our Christian faith. It doesn’t feel very special, but it touches people, even if we don’t notice.

Sometimes we do need to talk about our faith. Maybe there is a discussion about religion or morality, or someone asks us what we believe. So we just have an honest conversation. Or maybe an issue comes up, and our conscience tells us that we need to explain what we believe or take a stand. It’s not about winning an argument, but witnessing to our faith, and speaking from the heart.

And sometimes we might be a bit more proactive and look for opportunities to share our faith.

We are never alone. When Jesus sent his disciples out on mission, he also made them a promise. He said: “Remember, I am with you always, until the end of time” (Mt 28:20).