Today, I had to take nine year old students from school, to Reconciliation to confess their sins to a priest. Many people nowadays, think that this is just not in keeping with the times, that it’s irrelevant and that it’s a waste of time.
Why do Catholics confess their sins to a priest, rather than going directly to God?
In James 5:16, God, through Sacred Scripture, commands us to “confess our sins to one another.” Notice, Scripture does not say confess your sins straight to God and only to God — it says confess your sins to one another.
In Matthew, chapter 9, verse 6, Jesus tells us that He was given authority on earth to forgive sins. And then Scripture proceeds to tell us, in verse 8, that this authority was given to “men”…plural.
The Bible tells us to confess our sins to one another. It also tells us that God gave men the authority on Earth to forgive sins. Jesus sends out His disciples with the authority on earth to forgive sins. When Catholics confess their sins to a priest, they are simply following the plan laid down by Jesus Christ. He forgives sins through the priest…it is God’s power, but He exercises that power through the ministry of the priest.
Funny, because my students didn’t question Why? What? How? They were just a little nervous and anxious about telling their sins to a priest. But once I reassured them that God knows what’s in their heart, that God understands and knows everything about each and everyone of them, that if they forget their sins, God knows them all intimately anyway, they then calmed down. They knew they could do it.
It was so gentle, quiet liturgical music playing in the background, students sitting and reading while waiting for their turn and then stepping up onto the altar, one at a time to sit with the priest side by side, just like having a conversation.
They sat and pondered, they sat and prayed, they sat and looked at the icons and images around the church, they knelt and prayed for their penance and they seemed calmer after we got back to class.
Reconciliation is a gift from God. We should all embrace it and practice it because Jesus came to preach the message of love, forgiveness, healing, reconciliation, new life and fullness of life for every person. Jesus came to preach and to bring it about again not through violence, not through power, not through armies, not through war, but through forgiveness and love.
One might say that the students are too young. Wouldn’t you say that children should understand their actions and how they affect others? That their choices can have a huge impact on their family and friends, that in the eyes of God they are accountable? How beautiful is it to receive God’s grace and forgiveness which can bring about healing? How fulfilling is it that we can all offload our bad choices, our sins and our hurts to Jesus and He will take them all away and restore us and help bring peace into our hearts?
Perhaps the benefits outweigh our reluctance towards this forgotten sacrament. Perhaps there may be less anxiety, less stress, sleeplessness, less fear and doubt, because all these do not come from God. That’s what the sacrament of Reconciliation does, it brings God’s light, love, forgiveness, building up of friendships, restoration, healing and peace through His SON Jesus Christ – the ultimate healer.
A heart at peace is a heart at rest. Jesus takes away the pain the others can’t reach!