Why the Sacrament of Confession?

A question was asked recently in conversation by several people in the parish: Why do we need to go to Confession?
First, this is a Sacrament that was given to us directly by Jesus as a means to grow in grace and holiness and as a sign of God’s love for us.  In John’s gospel chapter 20 verses 21-23, Jesus said, “… Peace be with you.  And when He had said this, 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.”  We all are called to holiness by Jesus, and this is a powerful tool to do so.
For by the power Jesus has given to a priest, our sins are forgiven here on earth by God, and our slate is wiped clean.  This act of going to Confession is pleasing to God, for he desires us to be holy as He is holy.

Some have said they were told that they only had to go to Confession if they had committed a mortal sin.  That is wrong.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that we must also confess venial sins, for these can lead to more serious sins and even mortal sins.   For mortal sin can lead us down the path to Hell and away from Heaven and everlasting life with Christ.  Church law requires us to go at least once a year, but encourages monthly confession for all its members.

Frequent confession is good, for it allows the Holy Spirit to help us remember our sins and to bring things to mind that others may have done to us or we to them. This is a grace that God wants to give us that will help us on the path of holiness.  He wants to soften our hearts so we can forgive others as He forgives us.   The seal of confession is such, that the priest cannot disclose to anyone what he has heard, for what is said in the confessional stays in the confessional.  The priest, after he has given guidance and absolution, sees you in a state of grace, for having confessed all your sins.   For your soul is clean again in the sight of God, and the burdens of sin have been lifted off your shoulders.  The early Church Fathers saw Confession as a second Baptism that wiped sin away from one’s soul.*   Don’t be afraid of confessing your sins,  for the priest who is representing Christ in the confessional only wants to reunite you to Christ and his Church through this sacrament.  We all have a fallen nature due to original sin, and that was why Christ came to redeem us and to reunite us with God, for He wants us to enter into heaven where every tear will be wiped away, and we will experience the love of God in a way that is unfathomable.

And yes, humility is required to do this.  Nothing that we have done is so bad that God will not forgive us.  He is calling us to come to him to be cleansed and renewed.  It is known that Saint John Paul II went to confession weekly, and J.R.R. Tolkien would not receive communion until he had first gone to confession.  Why? Because they had experienced the grace of the sacrament, and they did not want to receive the Body of Christ in a state of sin.  Along with that, they needed it to grow in holiness and in the love of God and of neighbor.

Finally, Christ wants to heal our brokenness and restore us as his loved ones.  He is the good Shepherd.  The kind of heart he has for us is found in Isaiah 42:1-4.  “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one, in whom my soul delights.  I have put my spirit upon him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.  He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street: a bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not quench; He will faithfully bring forth justice.”   This passage from Isaiah speaks of the gentleness of Jesus toward those who are hurting and suffering, and through the Sacrament of Confession, He wants to heal us.  He desires our repentance so He can wipe our sins away and restore us to the life of grace with Him.