Starting with last week‟s notes on Baptism, here is some more Q & A, this time on Confession. Let‟s call this series, “Why do Catholics do that?”. As we heard on Ash Wednesday, we should move away from sin during Lent. Every one of us should go to Confession during Lent to turn away from sin, receive God‟s mercy and grace, and experience true repentance. Be not afraid!
May you know the peace of Christ,
Is Confession only about sin? No, it’s primarily about God’s infinite mercy.
The woman caught in adultery: “has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you. Go away, and from this moment sin no more” – Jn 8: 11
Parable of the prodigal son (Lk 15)
I thought only God forgives sins. How can the priest forgive sins?
Jesus has the power to forgive sins. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” – Mt 28:18
Jesus gives the power of forgiving sins to the Apostles (aka the first priests)
“As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” After saying this, he breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.” – Jn 20:21-23
God reconciled us to himself through Christ and he gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” 1 Cor 5: 18
Why do I need to confess my sins to a priest? Why can’t I just confess to God privately?
We can be forgiven of venial sins outside of Confession (the Penitential Rite at Mass, Eucharist, sincere Act of Contrition, e.g.). But, forgiveness of mortal sins is reserved for Confession. “There is sin that leads to death.” (1 Jn 5:16). Mortal sins kill our relationship with God and take us out of the state of His grace, which we need to be in order to get to Heaven.
If we are in a state of mortal sin at the hour of our death, we will go to Hell (Catechism of Catholic Church, # 1861). So, Confession restores us to a state of grace, and keeps us out of Hell.
Catholics see that they need a priest with other sacraments (Baptism, Eucharist, Anointing of the Sick, etc.) and that we can‟t get Sanctifying Grace on our own. So….WHY ARE WE DIFFERENT WITH CONFESSION?
I’m afraid to go to Confession.
If you feel this way, then remember there is always a way.
“It’s been many years.”
- Welcome back!
“I forgot how to confess.”
- The priest will walk you through it.
“The priest will judge me.”
- He goes to Confession, too.
“The priest will tell others my sins.”
- He has the “Seal of Confession‟ and can tell no one anything.
“I will forget some sins.”
- You’re still forgiven for them.
“I wouldn’t know where to start with my sins.”
- Review the Ten Commandments and Seven Deadly Sins
Keep in mind:
- It is Christ in the Confessional; in persona Christi —“whoever hears you, hears me” (Lk 10:16)
- We hear and know we are forgiven –“I absolve you in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit”
- Christ’s grace in Confession heals us and gives us the strength to overcome future sins (St Teresa of Calcutta, St John Paul II)
- The priest can give us advice on how to avoid the sins in the future
- Confessing on the lips = shows true contrition –as when I sin against a friend; I need to go face to face to reconcile
How do I make a good Confession?
- Examination of conscience via Guide to Confession (located in church vestibule)
- Act of Contrition
- Do your penance
How often should I go?
- At least once a year (required)
- Whenever in mortal sin or think you may be (before Holy Communion)
- Once a month
- Recommended by St Teresa of Calcutta and St John Paul II
- will grow in grace and holiness
- frequent Confession helps us to “forgive those who trespass against us‟ so that we will be forgiven
- see our sins as they are (gossip, e.g.) and see ourselves as we are: “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”