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Reasons for Penance and Reconciliation in the Catholic Church
Confession is one of the Seven Sacraments in the Catholic Church. It is the divulgence of sin committed by a Catholic faithful to a priest. With priestly authority, the priest exonerates the confessor from the said sins.
Some of the common utterances I hear are these:-
I cannot confess to a human person.
Jesus is the only one who has the authority to hear my sins.
I bet understanding the relationship between God and papacy will help you partake in the sacrament of penance and reconciliation without undermining the priestly authority.
Roots of confession
The Old Testament and the New Testament are the two segments of the Bible. Both of them have pointed out Confession in equal measure as a vital sacrament. We cannot afford to separate the two.
The Old Testament
In the Old Testament, Moses, Aaron, and Miriam were siblings. They all devoted themselves to God. When Aaron and Miriam spoke ill of Moses, God did not take it lightly. Moses was God’s favorite, considering the responsibility God vested in him.
God punished Miriam for her cheap slander of Moses with Aaron. Aaron pleaded with Moses to intercede to God to reinstate Miriam’s health.
From the way God spoke (Numbers 12), Moses was above Aaron and Miriam in terms of Spiritual hierarchy. In Aaron’s wisdom, he respected that order and reached out to God through Moses. Moses was a prophet. Aaron was a powerful priest, but still sought the intercession of Moses.
The second occasion of priestly authority in the Old Testament is when Abimelech tried to take Sarah (Abraham’s wife) (Genesis 20: 1-16). God punished every woman in Abimelech’s palace with barrenness. In normal circumstances, anyone would be furious at Abraham. Instead, Abimelech lay low. Abraham pleaded to the Lord on his behalf.
The New Testament
Jesus healed a paralyzed man in Capernaum. Some teachers of the law seemed not to agree with Jesus. Jesus expedited His priestly authority through His words, “get up your sins are forgiven.” Jesus was a man (priest) with permission to stand in the gap.
The same confession replicates in James 5:16. “So then, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you will be healed. The prayer of a good person has a powerful effect.
After the resurrection of Jesus. These were His exact sentiments. “Peace be with you,” He said. After saying this, He showed them His hands and His side. The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.” Then He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20: 19-23).
Jesus showed them His hands and side to prove He was the crucified Jesus. He also officially handed over His earthly job to the disciples who are the present priests.
What happens during confession?
Officially it’s only you and the priest. Spiritually, you are four. Jesus stood in as God and as a priest. The priest too represents the Lord, himself (as a priest), and everyone else you sinned against. He is three in one (Jesus, Priest, and the people you have wronged).
Remember the above verse concerning confessing to one another? United in one body of Christ, your confession becomes complete.
Every event in the Bible happened in the full glare of the Lord’s eyes. The Holy Book is alive and active. God is still on His throne. Going through His chosen servants to reach Him is a silent command. Confession is, therefore, a sacrament we need to partake in as much as possible. Pride is one of the seven deadly sins that prevent Catholics from honoring the sacrament.
I have personally found confession to keep me on my toes. The thought of confessing the same sin again dreads. What about you? Do you confess or don’t you? Why? Let’s hear what you have to say in the comments.