“Why do I need to confess my sins to a priest?” Because Jesus said so!!
Maybe you’ve heard these questions (or similar ones) before: “Why do you have Confirmation?” “Why do you believe communion is actually Jesus’ body?” “Why do I need to confess my sins to a priest? It doesn’t say that in the Bible!” OH YES IT DOES!!
Biblical validation of this sacrament is, of course, the easiest. It doesn’t get more straitforward than “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit.” Matthew 28:19. The apostles did just that. Peter, preaching to a crowd about Jesus, said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the holy Spirit.” Acts 2:38. I won’t go into it any further, because I seriously doubt anyone would question the existence of this sacrament.
“Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit; for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:14-17
This is an example of the apostles confirming people in Samaria. Like the excerpt says, these people had already been baptized but they still needed something else to receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
There are TONS of verses to support the sacrament of holy Eucharist:
“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ And likewise the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.’” Luke 22:19-20
“I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world…. Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the father, so he who eats me will live because of me.” John 6:51, 53-57
Ever since the first apostles, this sacrament has occurred:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers…. Day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts.” Acts 2:42, 46
St. Paul emphasizes the importance and sacredness of this act:
“Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” 1 Corinthians 11:27-29
If the Eucharist were not the true presence of Jesus Christ, profaning the bread and wine would not be that big of a deal; but Paul makes it perfectly clear that to do so is to literally profane the body and blood of the Lord. It’s really Him. Like, for real.
Reconciliation and Penance
Jesus said to Simon Peter: “I give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19. Here Jesus is both making Peter the first Pope and giving him and the other apostles the authority to receive and exclude people from communion with God and the Church.
On the day of Pentecost, Jesus appeared to the apostles. “He breathed on them and said to them: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” John 20:22-23. The letter of James urges the faithful to “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Again, Jesus gives the apostles the authority to declare that a person’s sins are forgiven by God. We believe that only God forgives sins. A priest or bishop just has the authority to say whether or not God has done so, ie: Is the person truly repentant? (I’ve never heard of any case where a priest “retained” someone’s sins. God’s mercy is infinite.)
Saint Paul also references this sacrament in his second letter to the Corinthians: “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 17-19
Anointing of the Sick
Of course you know that Jesus was well known for laying his hands on the sick and curing them of their maladies. He did not heal all the sick, but he certainly healed many. Jesus called his disciples to continue this mission:
“So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.” Mark 6:12-13
“In my name… they will lay their hands on the sick and they will recover.” Mark 16:12-13
“Is any among you sick? Let him call for the presbyters of the Church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” James 5:14-15
Just as Jesus did not heal all the sick, so too not all who receive this sacrament recover from their physical maladies. However, this sacrament forgives any sins they have on their heart and provides peace and comfort to the sick and dying. (It is not necessary to be at the point of death to receive this sacrament. Hospitalization for any reason is generally serious enough to warrant this sacrament.)
One could go on forever about the theology of the priesthood, but here’s the basic summary. There are three levels of Holy Orders: deacon, priest, and bishop. Bishops serve the Church in their designated areas, and priests & deacons assist the bishops. The Pope is the bishop of Rome.
The ordained are the successors of the original 12 apostles and disciples. My brother wrote a facebook note about this recently, so I’ll quote him here:
The Catholic Church has a long-standing tradition of Apostolic Succession, going back to the original 12 Apostles (Simon Peter, Andrew, James the Great, John, Bartholomew/Nathanael, Matthew, Phillip, James the Less, Simon the Zealot, Thomas, Judas Thaddeus, and Matthias). The bishops of the Catholic Church are in a line of direct succession from these original 12 Apostles.
Because of the passages in the New Testament that suggest that Peter was given a special leadership role (Matt. 16:18-19, John 21:15-17), supported by evidence of the role that Peter played in the early church (Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles of Peter), the Church has kept records of every successor of St. Peter, who was the first pope. He was succeeded by St. Linus, who was succeeded by St. Anacletus, who was succeeded by St. Clement I, and so on. Pope Benedict XVI is the two-hundred sixty-fifth pope.
One of the passages he mentions is as follows:
“Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah…. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’” Matthew 16:17-19
In this scene between Jesus and Peter, Jesus institutes Peter as Pope, leader of the Church on earth. Not only that, but he gives Peter the authority to say who does and does not belong to the Church and therefore to God. In addition to the Pope there are the bishops, who are in direct succession from the original 12 apostles by the laying of hands. Priests are akin to the other disciples of Jesus.
There are many instances in Acts referencing the laying of hands and choosing leaders of local churches, fulfilling Jesus’ command to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20. In reference to this sacrament, St. Paul says in his letters to Timothy: “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of hands” (2 Tim. 1:6) and “If any one aspires to the office of bishop, he desires a noble task” (1 Tim 3:1). To Titus he says, “This is why I left you in Crete, that you amend what was defective, and appoint presbyters [priests] in every town, as I directed you.” Titus 1:5
Finally, the institution of Marriage was established wayyyy before Jesus was even born. Basically at the creation of the world when God said it was not good for man to be alone, and when Adam saw Eve and said, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” And then it explains, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one body.” Genesis 2:23-24. God created man and woman and then “God blessed them, and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it.’” Gen 1:28. In the New Testament, Jesus elevates marriage to the level of sacrament: “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” Matthew 19:6.
And there you have it! Biblical validation of all seven Sacraments. We actually do know what we’re talking about! Who’da thunk it?!