BENEFITS OF CONFESSION
Sometimes I have what I call, “Holy Spirit Common Sense.” Lately I’ve been experiencing Holy Spirit Common Sense about The Sacrament of Reconciliation which I’ll refer to as Confession for the rest of this article.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes clear the seriousness of sin. Sin damages our relationship with God, with the community of believers, with the whole Church. Only God can forgive sins thus Christ instituted the Sacrament of Penance. The priest says, “I absolve you of your sins in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Jesus gave Peter the authority to forgive sins not just in Jesus’ name but to forgive sins with the authority of Jesus. “[Jesus] said to them ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.’” John 20: 21-23 Peter was then able to pass this authority on to all his successors including bishops and priests.
Many people wonder why we can’t simply confess our sins to Jesus and ask Jesus to forgive us. We can confess our sins to Jesus. In fact, we should take a few minutes every evening to exam our conscience, to ask Jesus to forgive us, and then to say a prayer of contrition and thanksgiving.
I suspect Jesus knew we would tend to take shortcuts in confessing this way. Several times a day I say, “Lord forgive me of my sins and make me always worthy of you.” I do this as a reminder of my sinfulness and to let Jesus know I trust in him. Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Confession not because he wanted to make Confession a burden for us but because we need to take sin very seriously. Even sins we commit that we feel are no big deal can damage our relationship with God. Our immortal soul is too important to leave to chance.
For example: I have a disagreement with my husband during which I get angry and upset and say things I regret. I leave the room upset. Now that I’ve separated myself from the situation this would be a good time to talk to Jesus about what just happened and ask for forgiveness and ask Jesus to help me be a calmer person. Then I come back and ask my husband for forgiveness and he accepts my apology. This is idyllic but I can’t remember angry confrontations with my husband ever ending this way. Usually what happens is I can’t get over being upset and I go back to hash over the argument some more, not calmly but loudly with tears and accusations. Eventually my husband and I get over it but the damage to our relationship is done and consider the damage to my soul! I need to go to Confession to make things right. Confession makes it easier to tell my husband I’m sorry.
I go to Confession once a month. Usually around First Friday or First Saturday of the month. It takes me a few days to a week to do my examination of conscience. At first, I might have trouble remembering my sins but then little by little, as I pray about it, my sins start coming to me. I remember that stupid argument I had with my husband and how I overreacted. Then I remember something else I need to confess, maybe I used some bad words. Perhaps too much of the time my disposition was generally cranky. It’s not necessary to tell Father all the details of our argument or what bad words I used (unless he asks) or how many times I was irritable and cranky. Father will get the idea.
The last time I went to Confession I said, “I came to confess the problem of my selfishness; this problem affects my family, my friends and even my church family; I get disappointed and upset when things don’t go my way.” Then I said, “I ask God for the grace to overcome my selfishness and to do his will… sigh …instead of my own will.” For penance Father told me to say the Our Father slowly and prayerfully three times.
So here’s the benefits of Confession that I’m trying to explain. First regular Confession keeps me in the State of Sanctifying Grace, so I’ll always be able to receive Jesus in Holy Communion. Next, going to Confession regularly helps me stay in touch with my faults so I might be more aware and work to get rid of them, as I seriously try to be a better person, a loving and caring person. I find myself feeling very sad when I make an act of Contrition. This wasn’t always so. Also when I go to Confession there’s the possibility that I’ll receive some helpful suggestions from Father such as certain Bible passages or other spiritual readings or insight particular to my sins that I hadn’t thought of. The priest doesn’t always make suggestions or give insight but I welcome it when he does.
I receive another blessing from frequent Confession as well. Confession and Holy Communion go together. The more I receive Holy Communion the more I want to go to Confession and vice versa. These two Sacraments are so connected. As with all Sacraments, the Holy Spirit is present in our lives during Holy Communion as through the actions and prayers of the priest the Holy Spirit changes bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ and when we go to Confession the Holy Spirit comes to purify our soul as Father says the words to absolve us of our sins. If I try to keep my mind from wandering even a little during the Consecration, if I pay close attention and meditate on this mystery as I receive Jesus, the Holy Spirit sometimes makes his presence known to me in an intimate way. And during Confession, I often feel the presence of the Holy Spirit as Father blesses me and absolves me of my sins. I thank Father and as I get up to leave the Confessional, I’m already feeling joyful and overcome by an awesome sense of peace.
“Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin. All hope consists in confession. In confession there is a chance for mercy. Believe it firmly. Do not doubt, do not hesitate, never despair of the mercy of God. Hope and have confidence in confession.” St. Isidore of Seville
For more on Confession watch this simple video from Busted Halo. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJg29UG6028