From Second Corinthians by Thomas D. Stegman, SJ, commenting on 5:17-21:
For Catholics, the ministry of reconciliation is enacted in a privilege and unsurpassed manner in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. In fact, the opening words of the prayer of absolution make the connection explicit: “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself” (employing the words of 2 Cor 5:18-19). Because sin damages our relationship with God and others, it is necessary to seek reconciliation with God and the Church. Penitents confess their sins to a priest or bishop, who is an instrument of God’s merciful love and forgiveness. The priest or bishop also represents the community, whose witness to Christ and fraternal bonds are weakened by the sin of its members. The words of absolution–which are prayed by the priest or bishop after the penitent’s confession of sins, act of contrition, and resolution to do penance–are extremely powerful, for by means of them God brings about what he intended through the sacrificial death of Christ. Priests and bishops thus have the awesome privilege and responsibility of continuing the work of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Their demeanor and comportment in the confessional, especially when marked by patience and compassion, can have life-changing consequences. I have found that intimacy with Jesus’ Sacred Heart and recognition of my own sinfulness are essential aids to celebrating this beautiful sacrament.
In the Liturgy:
On the fourth Sunday of Lent (Year C), 2 Cor 5:17-21 is read alongside Luke 15:11-32, the parable of the Prodigal Son. The parable dramatically portrays in narrative form what Paul sets forth: namely, God’s mercy and desire to reconcile sinners to himself. In particular, Jesus’ description of the father–who races to embrace and receive back his humiliated, bedraggled, repentant son–illuminates Paul’s description of God. In short, the two passages together reveal that God is a loving Father who magnanimously offers us forgiveness and restoration to his family when we acknowledge our sinfulness.