4 March 2017

Satisfaction for sin

Fasting, prayer and almsgiving are three major forms of penance in the Catholic religion (Catechism 1434).

But what is penance? The Catechism explains that, "raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin; he must 'make satisfaction for' or 'expiate' his sins. This satisfaction is also called 'penance'" (Catechism 1459).

Penance is a matter of justice. It is a punishment for sin. "[Satisfaction] is meant not merely as a safeguard for the new life and as a remedy to weakness, but also as a vindicatory punishment for former sins" (Council of Trent, Session 14, Chapter 8). In a word, the Roman Catholic religion prescribes prayer, fasting and almsgiving as means to ‘made satisfaction’ and a ‘punishment’ for sins.

I am deeply troubled by such teaching. It twists the very purpose for doing good works; it also misleads people from the way of salvation.

The Bible declares that Jesus "by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified." Since Christ’s offering on the cross perfects his people and God forgives their sins, any human attempt to offer something more is both superfluous and offensive to the blood of Christ. "Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin" (Hebrews 10:14-18). Friend, if you are burdened by guilt, stop attempting to make satisfaction by your efforts. Go to Calvary. There is the one and only offering for sins that God accepts. Jesus is the full and complete satisfaction for the sins of his people.

As Christians we fast and pray to humble ourselves before God and to seek his face, but we wouldn't dream of relying on these works to make satisfaction for our sins. We also give alms to help the poor and needy, but we do not consider this privilege as a punishment! We joyfully give charity because God gave us the greatest Gift of all! God gave us his Son to die in our place that we may be freed from all our sins.

Which way will you go? Will you attempt to make satisfaction for your sins by prayer, fasting and almsgiving? Or will you look to Christ and say, He took my punishment; he made full satisfaction for all my sins!

(Gospel e-Letter - March 2017).