The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the seven sacraments Christ gave his church. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is also known as the Sacrament of Penance or Confession. This sacrament can set us free from our sins, and from the burden of guilt that comes along with our sins. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation – confession – we are brought back into union with God. Our sins separate and damage our relationship with our Lord, and it is through this most powerful sacrament that our relationship with the Lord is repaired and strengthened. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation we can walk more closely with the Lord once again, without the burden of our sins weighing us down and distancing our relationship with God.
Some ask why Catholics confess to a priest rather than just going straight to God. Some claim that confessing to a priest is not biblical. But that is not true.
We confess to a priest because that is the way Jesus instigated the sacrament. It is at his command that we confess to one another. When we sin against the Father our sins also affect our Christian family. Confessing sins to a priest is something that was a universal practice and never debated in the Early Church. (See the supplement Early Church Fathers - On Confession for some quotes.)
Jesus himself was able to heal not only the physically sick, but the spiritually sick as well. Christ had the power to forgive sins (see Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:5-12).
He passed on that power to forgive sins in his name to his Apostles.
"Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father." (Matthew 18:18-19)
"Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I sent 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)
Jesus entrusted his Church with the power of forgiving sins through this most wonderful sacrament. The priest is simply the one who acts in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) in the confessional, but it is our Lord who forgives our sins. The priest grants absolution (sets us free from our sins) using the power Jesus entrusted to his Church. It is through Christ, however, that our sins are forgiven.
St. Paul tells us, "And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us." (2 Corinthians 5: 18-20)
Does this mean that we shouldn’t speak and pray directly to God and express sorrow for our sins? Not at all! In fact for daily faults that is exactly what we should be doing. But for more serious offenses, for grave and mortal sins, we must repent and confess through the Sacrament of Reconciliation because that is what Christ commands us to do.
Early Church Fathers - On Confession
Sin and Reconciliation
What is a Sacrament?
Peace in Christ,
Lord Have Mercy by Scott Hahn
Catholic Parent Know-How - Preparing Your Child, First Reconciliation
For more Reconciliation Resources, visit Getfed.com