We’ve been considering the rituals of the Mass. Most of the time Mass begins with a “penitential act.” It’s a short prayer-moment in which our sinfulness is recalled, sorrow for sin is expressed, and forgiveness for our venial sins is obtained. It is surely most formally expressed when the best-known “act of contrition” prayer is used, the one which begins “I confess to Almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned ….”
Many people don’t realize the opportunity we have at the Mass itself to have our sins forgiven. The penitential act ends with the priest praying what’s called the minor absolution. It goes “May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.”
True, for any sin to be forgiven there needs to be true sorrow for sin and repentance: we have to acknowledge the sin, regret it, and really intend not to sin again! And Catholics understand that truly grave or “mortal” sin is most properly forgiven in a sacramental context of confession. But it’s important to remember Christ’s own statement of His motive for shedding His blood for us: “so that sins may be forgiven.” It’s a vital aspect to our Mass, as memorial of His sacrifice, too.