For the last two weeks I have been thinking about going to confession. This is something I haven’t done for about forty years. Why now? Why not?
As I have written before I truly believe that God talks to me, no I am not hearing voices, but He talks to me in different ways. He talks to all of us actually we just don’t always listen. Two weeks ago I asked God what I needed to do next, what was the next step I needed to take in my journey. That morning as I travelled around in the truck I heard three different references on the radio about confessions. That’s all I needed.
Why did I stop going? Like many Catholics my age, I grew up thinking I knew more than the Catholic Church, so I figured I didn’t need to go to confession because since God sees all, He already knows my sins. Why do I need to take time from my day to go tell things to a guy sitting behind a screen, probably sleeping when God already knows what I have done? Sure there is that whole penance thing but I can do that on my own as well.
Have I done that for the last forty years? Have I made silent confessions and done any kind of penance? Heck no. I’m guessing many who have said they would do this, haven’t actually done so. I’ve already mentioned I didn’t start regularly praying until a year ago, so needless to say I did no penance.
Why do we need to confess to a priest? According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) number 1456:
Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance: “All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted y them in confession, even if they are the most secret..”
If we are to be healed through penance, we must confess out sins, it starts the healing process. Think of it as being sick and going to the doctor but not telling him what is wrong with you. How can he help you? It is the same thing with confessing to a priest, who is an instrument of God. Later in CCC 1458 we read this:
Whoever confesses his sins… is already working with God. God indicts your sins; if you also indict them, you are joined with God. Man and sinner are, so to speak, two realities, when you hear “man” – this is what God has made; when you hear “sinner” – this is what man himself has made. Destroy what you have made, so God may save what he has made…When you begin to abhor what you have made, it is then that your good works are beginning, since you are accusing yourself of your evil works. The beginning of good works is the confession of evil works. You do the truth and come to the light.
Okay, I hear you, so why do we need to go to a priest, why can’t confessing to ourselves be okay? Because Jesus entrusted his disciples with this task.
“If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Jn 20:23
The priest is fulfilling his duties as a “Good Shepard” who is seeking lost sheep (believe me this sheep has been pretty lost) the “Good Samaritan” who helps bind the wounds of others and the father welcoming home the “Prodigal Son”.
There is yet another good reason to confess to a priest in my mind. Look at it this way, if you tell someone the bad things you have done, don’t you think that just maybe you’ll think twice about doing the same things again?
Especially if you go to confession more often than once every forty years, you might be inclined to not sin. Here is the thing about sin (and fodder for another reflection at some point in time) when you sin once and get away with it, it is easier the next time. Talk to people who have cheated on their spouses and they will tell you, the second time was easier than the first. If you confess your sins to someone, you are less likely to fluff it off, you are forced to recall it.
Will I sin again? More than likely, but I know I won’t be committing any of the big ones.