Last two weeks, we discussed the effects of confession and how to prepare for a good confession. One of the questions non Catholics, and even some Catholics, ask is,
“Why confess to a priest when I can speak directly to God and ask for forgiveness?”
Why Confess to a Priest and not Directly to God?
Jesus who was a Jew knew about the fact that we can pray directly to God, especially with The psalm of mercy (51). But after his resurrection, he breathed upon the apostles saying “Receive the holy spirit, whose sins you forgive they are forgiven… ” John 20:22-23. He could have told them to confess to God directly but did not, giving legitimacy to this Sacrament.
As we saw earlier in our previous lesson, how could the apostles forgive sins as mandated if no one confessed their sins to them?
Sin causes shame and the devil will find all means/reasons/excuses to discourage us from confessing our sins and receiving pardon and liberation. The Sacraments, including Penance and Reconciliation (Confession), were instituted by Christ himself and given to the Church as a gift.
Even the Pope, who is addressed as “Holy Father” by virtue of him being the vicar of Christ on earth, goes for confession! ????
Another way of the devil is to make us feel we have not sinned after all or its no big deal. Or after all, everyone is doing it! That is why St. John Paul II could rightly say, “the problem of this age is not sin, but lack of the awareness of sin.”
In the end, just like all the sacraments, its not to the priest that we confess but Christ, and it is Christ himself who forgives us through the ministry of the priest.
The priest only acts in the person of Christ _(in persona Christi)_ and has no power outside Christ.
Another thing that scares people about this sacrament is the fear that the priest will keep their sins in memory, repeat it to them later or share it with others. But one major thing we should note is that, whatever goes on when we go to confess remains there. Both the priest, and the person who confesses are bound by the utmost vow of secrecy. The priest cannot even with a gun on him disclose what you have told him in confession. He risks the utmost sanctions, including being banned from exercising his priestly functions if he breaks this seal. If the priest decides to keep everyone’s sins in memory, you can imagine how burdensome it would be! He has his own problems to battle with, and wouldn’t want to add your sins as well!
At the confessional we come to unburden ourselves unto the Lord who is represented by his priest.
The Lord desires no longer that we take upon ourselves the burden of sin.
The priest has no excuse not to be holy just as the faithful have no excuse. We are all to strive for holiness. And one of the means of attaining holiness is by frequent partaking of the sacraments, including the priest.
According to my learned brother Fr. Delight Carbonu, “Anyone who really understands the effect and damage sin causes the relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ would notice he cannot go alone before The Lord pleading. If we are sincere we would notice we need help.”
God bless you.
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