When we SIN, we bring evil and suffering not only to ourselves but to those around us. We offend not only God but our neighbor, and the body of Christ, which is the Church. We ask for forgiveness so we can be healed and so we can be restored to the body of believers who make up God’s people. Jesus Christ has already died for our sins, but we must accept His sacrifice so we can avail of His forgiveness. Jesus has also conferred authority to carry out this mission of forgiving sins to His disciples who in turn passed this on to others whom they sent. At the present time, this authority is conferred to priests that belong to His Church. It is true that we can ask for forgiveness directly from God. But it is also true that God, in His wisdom and in His goodness and mercy, has created all things in their proper order. He uses instruments and people to be channels of His love and forgiveness.
But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not reckoning to them their trespasses, and having committed to us the word of reconciliation. – 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, WEB-BE
Why Confess Our Sins To a Priest?
1. Through the sacrament of reconciliation, and by confession our sins to a priest, we have the assurance of Jesus’ own words that we shall be forgiven of our sins. This is especially true for mortal or very grave sins. Isn’t it true that when we sin gravely, we find it difficult to believe that we can still be forgiven of our sins? Isn’t it true that our human nature somehow finds comfort in actually hearing the words that we are indeed forgiven them no matter how terrible such sins may have been? By confessing our sins to a priest, we are given a vehicle by which we can be comforted in our guilt. We are given an opportunity to personally witness how God’s mercy works. And we know we can believe that with wholehearted repentance, we are indeed forgiven because we have the promise of Jesus Himself.
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus therefore said to them again, “Peace be to you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit! If you forgive anyone’s sins, they have been forgiven them. If you retain anyone’s sins, they have been retained.” – John 20:20-23, WEB-BE
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. – Matthew 18:17-18, KJV
Catechism of the Catholic Church 1445 states: The words bind and loose mean: whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, God will welcome back into his. Reconciliation with the Church is inseparable from reconciliation with God.
Is any amongst you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praises. Is any amongst you sick? Let him call for the elders of the assembly, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will heal him who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your offences to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The insistent prayer of a righteous person is powerfully effective. – James 5:13-16
2. Confessing our sins to a priest helps us develop HUMILITY. To humbly admit our sins to another is to overcome our self-righteousness and self-sufficiency.
3. Knowing that we shall need to confess our sins to a priest may help us avoid falling into them ever so easily. It is one thing to say that we can directly confess our sins to God since we do not see Him nor do we tremble at His presence. It is another thing to know that we need to declare our unrighteousness before another man. We need to be reminded of God’s justice. How would it feel like at the end of our lives, when we finally come before the judgment seat of God where we can hide nothing and make no more excuses for our sins?
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a channel of God’s mercy. If we ever lose the life of our soul through mortal sin, it is here where it can be restored back to life.
Catechism of the Catholic Church 1446 states: Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as “the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace.”