Legatus editor Patrick Novecosky writes about the power of sacramental Confession . . .
You’ve probably heard fallen away Catholics — or even church-going Catholics — grumble about the sacrament of Confession. The complaint usually goes something like this: “Why should I confess to a priest when I can tell God my sins?”
Jesus didn’t teach that sinners should go directly to God in order to have their sins forgiven. He specifically gave his apostles — the first Catholic priests — the ability to forgive sins (Mt 16:19). Confessing to a priest is the method that God set up to reconcile sinners to Himself.
Sin separates us from God and cuts us off from sanctifying grace. The Church also teaches that those who die without repenting of mortal sin — deliberate serious sin committed by their own free will — risk eternal damnation. And even venial or nominal sins weaken our relationship with the Lord.
One of Christ’s greatest gifts to His Church — the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with the Father — is, sadly, one of the most underused of the seven sacraments (Click here for a related story). “During his public life, Jesus not only forgave sins, but also made plain the effect of this forgiveness: He reintegrated forgiven sinners into the community of the people of God from which sin had alienated or even excluded them” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1443).
We’re all sinners. As St. Paul tells us, we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). We all need reconciliation with Him. That’s the whole reason God launched his massive rescue plan for the human race — sending Jesus to die for us. He did the heavy lifting on the cross, but we need to claim that redemption. The good news is that Jesus desperately wants us back! And the sacrament of Confession is the way to get ourselves right with God again.
When I lived in California 15 years ago, I was overdue for a good Confession. I remember finding the parish priest right after Mass and asking for the sacrament. I met him on the back step of the church. Right after he said the words of absolution, a gentle gust of wind came up and hit us both. We both smiled, recognizing God’s gentle touch. I remember thinking, “Wow! God just blew my sins away!”
A good confession also does something else. It strengthens us against the temptation to sin. We receive graces that act like a force field around us, helping us to recognize and fight the temptations that the devil throws at us every day. If we’re living in a state of grace, there’s not much the devil can do to us. That reassurance is what keeps me coming back to the sacrament every month. With God’s grace, there’s no reason we can’t all get in line to have our sins gently whisked away.
Patrick Novecosky is Legatus Magazine’s editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org