Top Five Reasons to Confess Your Sins to a Priest
The meaning and need for the sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the easiest to explain. Yet, many people are unaware of these five basic reasons to go to Confession.
'Why must I go to a priest to confess my sins?', is still a common objection from many Catholics. Here are five good reasons to go to Confession...
1. The Power of the Keys
When Jesus healed the paralytic, he said that he did it to show the Pharisees and the crowd that he, as High Priest of the New Covenant and also the sacrificial victim, had the power and authority to forgive sin. Since sin causes sickness and paralysis, this power to heal is a sign that Jesus also has power over sin itself. He tells the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven”.
Jesus, after the resurrection, appeared to the Apostles on Easter night and passed that same full power of forgiving sins in the Name of God on to their priestly office. “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week”, Jesus showed himself to the Apostles (priests). “He breathed on them, and said to them, 'receive the Holy Spirit… If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any they are retained” (John 20:19-23).
This is called the priestly 'power of the keys', to bind and to loose. It calls to mind the words Jesus gave to Peter when he said, "I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt 16:18-19).
2. Reconciliation with the Church as Body of Christ too.
The sacrament of Reconciliation offers the sinner a chance to fix the relationships damaged by sin. We know that mortal sin can actually fracture the relationship that we have with God but we usually fail to consider the damage our sin does to the Church. As members of the Body of Christ, even venial sin weakens the bonds of the sinner and the Church.
The priest not only stands in for Christ in the confessional but he stands in for the Church as a whole, head and body. We may speak directly to God at any time in prayer, but it would be impractical to go to each member of the Church (that’s billions of people) and confess and ask for their forgiveness.
3. The Power of Absolution
When we ask God for forgiveness, which we should do so immediately after offending Him or after our conscience tells us we have sinned, God’s mercy will be poured out on us in the first step of forgiveness. This is because God can hear our prayer and read our heart. But that is not enough! We should then take that sin to confession and tell the priest about it. Forgiveness doesn’t wipe out sin, it pardons it, but the sin and the guilt linger. Absolution completely obliterates the sin to the point where God allows himself to forget it.
When Sister Faustina was confronted by a doubting priest to prove that she was experiencing apparitions of Jesus, he asked her to do a test. He told her, ‘next time you talk to Jesus ask him what my sins were that I recently confessed. She agreed and when she saw Jesus again she asked him. Jesus responded, ‘I don’t remember’. She went back and told the priest that Jesus said he didn’t remember and the priest believed her because that answer is the best theologically accurate answer. Jesus allows himself to forget the sins that we accuse ourselves of in Confession. That is the meaning of absolution.
4. Sacramental Grace
The obvious spiritual effect of confessing sins to a priest in the sacrament of Reconciliation is the forgiveness and absolution of sins. What happens next for those who confessed mortal sin is the restoration of divine life in the soul. The sacrament of Reconciliation has that in common with Baptism. Both are called the sacraments of the dead. This refers to the state of the soul before receiving the sacrament. In Baptism it comes alive in sanctifying grace for the first time as a new creature of grace. In Reconciliation, it comes alive after having been snuffed out by sin.
Other grace given in the sacrament is the help to avoid putting yourself in a near occasion of sin and have a more firm resolve to resist temptation. Another gift we receive is the disposition to be more forgiving of others when they trespass against us. None of this grace is guaranteed by simply telling God sorry in a prayer.
5. Certitude and Peace of Mind
It doesn't have to be, but sometimes Reconciliation is a 'feel good' sacrament. When you are feeling disappointment in yourself and guilt, there’s nothing like hearing a priest say out loud, “I absolve you from your sins”. A person may say to God, in his heart, ‘Lord, I am sorry. Please forgive me’. He may even sort of feel like he has been forgiven but there will always be some lingering doubt.
You may choose to spill the beans with a close friend or family member but then you may become the victim of judgment or worse, gossip. Just the fear of that happening may steal your peace. With the sacrament of Reconciliation, there is never any doubt that you have been absolved and blessed with grace. You also have the assurance that everything you said is locked away and the keys are buried, so to speak. The priest is strictly forbidden to discuss anyone's sins due to the 'seal of confession'.
It really is a spiritual reset. It stands as a psychologically therapeutic exercise to unload one’s guilt and to be assured of forgiveness. Even our mental health is fortified in the ritual acting out of the sacrament of Reconciliation.