Why We Go To Confession

Confession is scary. Bringing your sins to light is scary. But to another person? An ordained minister? It doesn’t get more real than that.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is another one of those things in orthodox Christianity that we would never think of doing unless Jesus actually wanted us to do it. Like drinking His blood, or eating His flesh, or loving our enemies. Crazy things, Jesus. Why would He want His followers to confess our sins out loud to a bishop or presbyter of His Church?

Well, I honestly don’t know why He designed it this way. He could’ve done it any way He wanted. I do know, though, that Jesus told His Apostles to forgive people’s sins, and since the beginning of Christianity believers have either publicly or privately confessed their sins to the ordained clergy and then received forgiveness (John 20:23). Now, nearly 2,000 years later, His Church requires only that we confess mortal sins in the sacrament; venial sins are encouraged. I do know that it is both freeing and convicting to actually mention your sins by name. Saying them somehow makes you own up to them more. I do know that hearing the absolution from the clergy is some of the best words I’ve ever heard, because Jesus is speaking through them. I do know that going to this sacrament is hard but beautiful, that grace flows, that forgiveness is real and Jesus wants to forgive. I do know that Jesus died for this and that His mercy is unfailing.

I’m going to Confession this week, and am pretty nervous. I always am. Ever since becoming Catholic a year ago it’s been a hard adjustment to live this sacrament; I’m not used to it, it’s not an enjoyable thing, and I don’t like saying my sins out loud. Who does? But afterwards there’s always peace and grace and hope.

It is called the sacrament of conversion because it makes sacramentally present Jesus’ call to conversion, the first step in returning to the Father from whom one has strayed by sin.

It is called the sacrament of Penance, since it consecrates the Christian sinner’s personal and ecclesial steps of conversion, penance, and satisfaction.

It is called the sacrament of confession, since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. In a profound sense it is also a “confession” – acknowledgment and praise – of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man.

It is called the sacrament of forgiveness, since by the priest’s sacramental absolution God grants the penitent “pardon and peace.”

It is called the sacrament of Reconciliation, because it imparts to the sinner the love of God who reconciles: “Be reconciled to God.” He who lives by God’s merciful love is ready to respond to the Lord’s call: “Go; first be reconciled to your brother” (CCC 1423).

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