Tuesday, March 2, 2010

So you say you don't need to go to Confession...

Congratulations!  You haven't committed any mortal sins in recent memory, received absolution for sins quite some time ago and your soul is spotless.  You think you don't need to go to confession - after all, the Church only requires confession of mortal sins once a year and you certainly don't meet that requirement.  Your soul is in great shape and you are obviously in Heaven.  Please intercede on my behalf and for the rest of us who continue to struggle with concupiscence.  Seeing that you already have your white robe and dwell with those who died marked with the sign of faith, I dedicate the remainder of this post to the rest of us.

http://www.scienceimage.csiro.au/mediarelease/images/cracked_soil.jpgConfession is not easy.  Certainly, it is not complicated and the process is actually quite straightforward.  Facing the state of your soul and uttering the words out loud is the hurdle so many allow to be a barrier to the Confessional. There is no 'easy button' when you enter the Confessional.  In preparation, your conscience pains you as you go over what you have done and what you have failed to do.  Parched, your soul longs for freedom from the bonds of sin. Millions of our brothers and sisters - perhaps you, Dear Reader - avoid the confessional because of excuses they place before themselves.  Some believe that the hours are inconvenient.  Perhaps others had a bad experience once and refuse to ever go again.    Maybe they think that God will never forgive them or perhaps they believe the sins to be too embarrassing to mention.  Others simply don't remember how to make a confession and are afraid to appear foolish.  Believe it or not, there are anonymous online confession websites.  Why?  Because people cannot bear the weight of their actions - or inaction - any longer and cannot or do not avail themselves to the Sacrament. 

Rest assured, God will forgive any sin confessed with a contrite heart.  If the hours are inconvenient, schedule an appointment with a priest - they do that you know!  If you had a bad experience, ask a friend about who is his or her confessor and about their own experiences.  You don't want to go to hell just because Fr. O'Malley yelled at you in the third grade!  If you are worried about being embarrassed - don't be.  Priests have heard everything - and probably many sins you cannot even imagine.  Don't remember how to confess your sins?  There are many excellent guides to confession, including an examination of conscience.  Here is one example online (a .pdf  file) from the Knights of Columbus. 

Fr. Larry Richards has assembled a simple yet thorough list of sins which must be confessed HERE.  A sample from his list:  rudeness, reckless driving, hatred, calumny, pride and despair. 

Please go to confession.  Just do it.  Don't put it off.  When you do, all of the angels and saints will celebrate along with you.


Renee said...

I love it! ...and btw, I have not yet received the white robe. (-;
Beautiful sacrament!!

Jen said...

For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom 3:23) One "minor" sin is enough for God not to look at us, God is pure and cannot look at sin .... ANY sin. And a fallen human cannot play mediator for us. God cannot look upon him anymore than he can look upon us. Christ is the ONLY mediator between God and man.

in love

Kelly said...

Hi Jen,

Christ told the apostles to follow his example: "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you" (John 20:21). Just as the apostles were to carry Christ’s message to the whole world, so they were to carry his forgiveness: "Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matt. 18:18).

A priest represents the Church community, just as Christ taught his apostles to do. We could stand up and confess our sins publicly, but then no one would do that - would they?

Obtaining forgiveness for sins in the primitive Church wasn’t only a private affair between the sinner and God; it also meant reconciliation with the community (see Jas. 5:14–16).

In the fourth century, St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, wrote:
Sins are forgiven through the Holy Ghost. Certainly, but men lend him their ministry. . . . They forgive sin, not in their own name, but in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

Origen, a prolific theologian in the third-century Church, wrote:
The layman who falls into sin cannot by himself wash away his fault. He must have recourse to the levite; he needs the priest. At times, he applies to one even greater: he needs the pontiff’s help, that he may obtain the forgiveness of sins.

By confessing sins to a priest, a Catholic receives forgiveness for sins, is blessed with the grace of the Lord and has done so as Christ wanted. Perhaps most important, the sinner (yes, we all are and fall short - that is why priests go to confession as well) must exercise HUMILITY. The priest will offer Scripture or advice on how to best live life as a Christian and to repair the wrongs he/or she may have done to others.

During his lifetime Christ sent out his followers to do his work. Just before he left this world, he gave the apostles special authority, commissioning them to make God’s forgiveness present to all people, and the whole Christian world accepted this, until just a few centuries ago. If there is an "invention" here, it is not the sacrament of penance, but the notion that the sacramental forgiveness of sins is not to be found in the Bible or in early Christian history.

Now show me where altar calls, 'Communion Sunday' once a month with crackers & grape juice and church steeples are spoken of by the Early Church Fathers or in Sacred Scripture.

In regard to Christ's role as sole mediator, you are absolutely correct! Just before St. Paul declared Christ to be our one, unique mediator/intercessor, he commanded all Christians to be intercessors (or mediators) in verses 1-2.

Further, the very definition of a priest is "a mediator between God and men." All Christians are priests! All are not ministerial priests, but all Christians are priests nonetheless. First Peter 2:5,9 declares:

"And like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."

It follows then, that all Christians are mediators in a participatory sense in what Christ alone is by nature and absolutely.

Jen, Catholics are encouraged to confess all sins - big and small. If I am abrupt with someone who requires my patience, I ask God for His forgiveness and must show the humility to also apologize to the person I hurt. These sins, like drops of water into a cup, if not properly given attention will lead to a cup overflowing. If I continue to commit the same sin over and over again and am very impatient, it helps to have no only forgiveness from God, but also the guidance of another Christian on how best to 'go and sin no more.'

Thanks for reading this blog post and taking the time to reply. May the Peace and Love of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you always.

Jen said...

When Christ forgave the lame man his sins, the scribes reasoned in their hearts that He was speaking blasphemy for they knew that only God could forgive sins. And to show them that He was God and that He had that power to forgive the wrong against God he told the man to rise up and walk. (Mark 2:5-11)

What right therefore, does a mere man (priest or otherwise) have to take upon himself to be God and forgive sins!! I don't need to hear someone tell me my sins are forgiven. The Holy Spirit will calm my soul when I have confessed to God directly and he has removed my guilt through Christ. I don't need any earthly mediator when I have Christ, who is far superior than fallen man! He is all sufficient! What grace!

Yes, we must confess to one another, when we have wronged one another and we can forgive the person their wrong against us, but their standing with God we have no power to resolve. God has been wronged and God only can forgive. It would be like you saying to me: "You are forgiven by your neighbour for deliberately poisoning his dog." How does that make my neighbour feel? It certainly does not bring about any restoration in the relationship.

Yes, James talks about confessing our sins to one another but so that we can PRAY for one another ... not so that we can forgive one another.

Some of our sins affect people and that relationship must be resolved, but ultimately the definition of sin is disobedience to God. We have broken a relationship with Him because of it. We must seek HIS face to have that relationship resolved. Afterall HE is the one who removes our guilt as far as east is from west.

Why oh why would we WANT to go through an inferior being when we have access to the Saviour Himself. It would be like eating the crumbs when we have been invited to the banquet!

Kelly said...

Hello again, Jen:

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 1442:

Only God forgives sins (Mk 2:7) Since he is the Son of God Jesus himself says "The Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" and exercises this divine power "Your sins are forgiven" (Mk 2:5, Lk 7:48) Further he gives this power to men to exercise in his name (Jn 20:21-23)

So, we agree.

The distinction is that God does the forgiving, the priest has simply been commissioned to carry this out. (2 Cor 5:18) The apostle is sent out "on behalf of Christ" with "God making appeal" through him and pleading "Be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:20)

Apostolic Succession was yet another blessing left by Christ. The first generation, St. Paul handed down authority to the second, Timothy, and so on. As Catholics we can trace this lineage and have writings of the Early Church Fathers to show evidence of this tracing back to the first century A.D. It has been said that "to be deep in Church History is to cease to be protestant."

2 Cor 2:10-11 "What I have forgiven... in the presence of Christ..." -St. Paul

All of our sins affect others. The woman who has an affair with another man has hurt her husband, her family, her neighbors who learn of the scandal, the man's family, the coworkers that have to carry an extra load due to personal distractions, and on and on. There is no such thing as a private sin.

Evangelicals (especially those who embrace OSAS) speak of being convicted by the Holy Spirit and immediate repentance. They for some reason assume that Catholics do not experience the same admonishment - though we would be more likely to say we were succumbing to a guilty conscience. Of course we are to repent to God immediately. We do pray to Him and carry on conversations with God as any loving and faithful child of His would. We do not wait until 3:00 on a Saturday afternoon to repent and beg for His forgiveness. Certainly He can and does forgive.

In James 5, we see that if someone is sick they are to call for the elders (priests = presbyters, from the Greek) to be anointed and their sins would be forgiven. Just as the priest prays for us and over us, we are blessed with forgiveness from both the Church community and God. The priest, or presbyter, is a disciple performing a duty as prescribed by Christ.

We must remember, the priest is not the one who forgives. The forgiveness comes from Jesus. Before every confession the priest calls upon Jesus to come. He is simply performing a service for Jesus.

Yours in Christ,


The good brother said...

I am so glad that you spoke to this. Too many people have put off confession for one reason or another. Confession is so important in the life of the people of God. It shows that we do want to make it right and that we do wish to enjoy eternal happiness.

Patrick said...

Thanks for sharing this!

I encourage people to make it part of their schedule. Like how we have Sundays reserved for Mass, we should also have days set aside for Confession. I like to go whenever I need a haircut. The symbolism is apt in that we are cleaning up... but it grows back and have to go again.

Kelly said...

Patrick, thanks in advance for the haircut idea - I plan to use that example when speaking with others about going to confession! Wonderful idea!

Patrick said...

You're welcome! And hopefully we can continue to share. I teach in my parish and am always looking for new and creative approaches, especially with my knucklehead kids!