One of the stumbling blocks I encountered on my way to becoming Catholic was the idea of confession to a priest. Growing up as a Baptist, I had always been taught to privately confess my sins to God in prayer. So, why would I need some guy, sitting in a confessional booth, to forgive my sins? Likewise, many of my non Catholic friends who took my recent survey (found here), also lament the idea of telling someone else their sins and having them be forgiven. Isn’t this God’s job?
The short answer to that question is yes! Only God can forgive sins. But, God can also use his creation to communicate his forgiveness. Something similar to this, which almost all Christians accept, is the inerrancy of scripture. As Christians, we believe that God used men, as sinful and broken as they all were, to write his holy word. Something only that God could do was communicated through his creation. Likewise, priests, when absolving someone of their sins, do so not on their own authority, but on Christ’s. They have been given the gift to forgive sins in Jesus’ name.
“But where does the Bible say….” Stop right there! I’ve got you covered. In the words of my pastors growing up “If you have you Bibles with you this morning, turn to John 20:21-23.” The gospel of John reads:
21 [Jesus] said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you. 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. 23Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (Taken from the NAB on the USCCB website)
Jesus, in these verses, sends the apostles with his authority (v. 21) and gives them the gift of the Holy Spirit to forgive OR retain sins (22-23). Jesus knew we would need this process because he intimately knows our humanity. It’s tough to tell our sins to another person, but we may be tempted to overlook the gravity of our sin without doing so. Confession is also one of the greatest experiences of God’s grace that I have ever received. Don’t let fear keep you from this great gift!
So what do you think? Was this helpful? Leave your comments and/or questions in the comments section and be sure to share with a friend.
Peace be with you!