The great Sacrament of Confession (also known as the Sacrament of Penance or the Sacrament of Reconciliation) is the means which Jesus Christ Himself instituted so that through the merits of His Precious Blood and His death on the cross, we could be forgiven of our sins through priests.
Why did Jesus institute the Sacrament of Confession?
First of all, Jesus, Who is God, is merciful! Secondly, Jesus knew the weakness of human nature so He provided a way that we could come back to Him after falling into sin. As Jesus said, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” During much of His ministry, He spent time forgiving sins. The forgiveness of sins is simply a part of His healing ministry–healing the soul of the terrible sickness of sin.
Where in the Bible does Jesus give priests the authority to forgive sins?
After Jesus visited the disciples after His resurrection,
20 “…He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”~John 20:20–23
Other Bible Verses related to Confession
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”~I John 1:8–9
(From today’s Mass readings)
“Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit. 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.”~Psalm 32:1–2,5
How do I make a good Confession?
1. Find out my sins.
(NOTE: Sin is doing wrong on purpose. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to make a good Examination of Conscience. It helps to look through the Ten Commandments to see where you have offended God. Ask the Blessed Virgin Mary and your guardian angel to help you to make a good Confession.)
2. Be sorry for my sins.
3. Make up my mind not to sin again.
4. Tell my sins to the priest.
(NOTE: I begin my Confession by saying, “Bless me Father for I have sinned. It has been ______ since my last Confession and these are my sins.” Then I tell the priest my sins. After I finish telling my sins I say, “I am sorry for these sins and all the sins of my life.”)
5. The priest will give me a penance (some prayers to say) and then will ask me to say the “Act of Contrition” prayer.
After or while you say your “Act of Contrition” prayer, the priest will say these blessed words,
“…Through the ministry of the Church may God grant you pardon and peace, and I absolve you of your sins in the Name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Before leaving the Confessional, say,“Thank you, Father.”
6. Do the Penance the priest gives me. (*NOTE: A penance is a few prayers to offer to God in reparation for your sins which have now been forgiven. )
How often should I go to Confession?
Catholics must go to Confession at least 1 time a year. However, once a month or once a week is even better for the soul. Some saints and holy people like Blessed Mother Teresa and Saint Joseph of Cupertino went to Confession every day! As a result, they lived lives of great holiness. Frequent Confession is a great aid to advancement in virtue and holiness.
Every Confession should be a joyful encounter with Jesus Christ! For it is our loving Friend and Savior Jesus who waits for each of us in the Confessional to heal us of sin. Jesus, who is God, simply works through the priest to forgive sins. In addition, each time we go to Confession, Jesus gives us graces to amend our lives, stop sinning, and thus grow in holiness and virtue. The healing in the soul which is a result of being reconciled with God through Confession also brings peace and joy to the soul.
Let nothing keep you from going to Jesus in the Confessional. Frequently people don’t go to Confession out of concern for what others will say or think, but what God thinks is the most important!
Let us be like the woman in today’s Gospel reading who after living a sinful life, came to Jesus in sorrow for her sins and trust in His Mercy. Disregarding the opinion of the pharisees and other present, she fell to the feet of Jesus and washed them with her tears and bathed them in expensive perfumed ointment. Jesus then said to her, “Your sins are forgiven …your faith has saved you, go in peace.” (Luke 7:36–8:3)
More about the Sacrament of Confession:
- The Secret of Confession (including the Wonders of Confession) byRev. Father Paul O’Sullivan ‚O. P. (TAN Books)
- A Guide to Confession