Today's first reading, Ephesians 2:1-10, prompted me to want to share a class topic from this summer's Totus Tuus program with all of over the age of 13.
When reading St. Paul, especially in Romans and Galatians, but even in Ephesians, it can sound like Paul is maybe a little bit Protestant. <<read scarily>> I mean, he said today that "For by grace you have been saved through faith...it is the gift of God; it is not from works." But if that sounds non-Catholic, then we need to get to know Paul better and brush up on the Council of Trent's Decree on Justification.
So this summer, as the Totus Tuus teams taught the Creed, and specifically the class "The Forgiveness of Sins", we taught the kiddos St. Paul and The Council of Trent! We just didn't tell them we were teaching them that, since it's a thing that even a Catholic college student might assume is some of the deepest theology in the any Church document.
The key to understanding lies in this sequence:
1) We are forgiven...
2) by God...
3) in the Messiah...
4) by grace...
5) through faith...
6) by our conversion/metanoia...
7a) at first repentance (sacrament of baptism)...
7b) at second repentance (sacrament of penance)
(Imagine these in a long line stretching across a black board, and then the last two, 7a and 7b, branching off of 6 together.)
The genius of this list is that the entire sequence can be read as a single sentence, and it is true. But also you can drop out any and all of the following points and it's still true.
We are forgiven. (True)
We are forgiven by God through faith. (True)
We are forgiven by grace. (True)
We are forgiven in the Messiah at first repentance. (True)
We are forgiven at second repentance. (True)
This is the Catholic teaching on forgiveness/being saved/being justified/reckoned right/being redeemed. And is almost fractal in its ability to be completely true in its longest and shortest forms.
Now, you might ask, what is this first repentance/second repentance mumbo jumbo? You've been a Catholic for forty years and you've never heard of this!
Well, that is also Trent. But it's spelled out in a different document, the Decree on Penance and Extreme Unction.
But don't worry if you didn't know about this until just today. I only learned about it in the last year, and I learned about it through a silly hobbit meme. Yup.
I saw this and I was totally lost and so I had to look up the term "second penance" and I learned it has a long history running from as early as the Shepherd of Hermas (~140 A.D.) through the Scholastics up to Trent.
Baptism, where we reject Satan and accept the Messiah through faith, where we are forgiven by God by His utterly free gift (grace), is where we make our conversion and are justified—that is, declared a part of God's family in Jesus the Messiah. This is first repentance.
But well, sometimes we turn away from God. Sometimes we reject him, leave the family farm, and stomp off to waste Dad's money with prostitutes, and end up sleeping in a pig sty. But God is merciful, in his grace he lets us convert ourselves, and in the Messiah we can return to that living faith-working-through-love of Galatians 5:6. We cannot redo our Baptism, but this new conversion, this new repentance has a name: the Sacrament of Penance. This is second repentance. And thanks be to God for that.
So now you've learned about justification, about first and second repentance, and you've also learned that the Council of Trent isn't as scary as you once had thought. You are almost as smart as an 8th grader now.
If you want to see me train the Totus Tuus teachers in this and see it all worked out on the board, you can watch this video.
Also, for Catechism references on all this, see CCC 976-983 (forgiveness of sins), 1427-1429 (second penance), and 595-618 (Jesus died for our sins).