When I was in high school, I went on a week-long camp, which we called the Catholic Leadership Institute or CLI. During the week, we had a priest with us and there as spiritual support for us. One evening the priest was available for confession, and some of the leaders put on an examination of conscience for us to prepare us to go to confession. They handed us some papers to help us remember what to confess. I remember going into the place where they had confessions, and I was nervous about confessing my sins to the priest. As I’ve told you before, I have a bit of a tremor, and when my anxiety goes up, my hands shake even more! So with the paper in hand, I was visibly nervous. I go in, and the priest who is there tells me to be calm, put the paper down, and confess from my heart. I don’t remember anything he told me, but his calming message to me still sticks in my mind.
I must admit I’m still nervous when I go into the confessional. There is something about opening about your sinfulness that makes confession scary. Even as I now sit on the other side of the confessional, I still get nervous when I confess my sins.
However, I believe our Lord reassures us that we have nothing to be afraid of, that if we go to him and confess our sins, we will have healing and forgiveness. St. Paul speaks to us about what our Lord has done to our transgressions what he has done with our sins. He tells us that he obliterates all our sins and nails them to the cross. All of us at first, were freed from sin and death by our baptism. St. Paul tells us, “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.”
Baptism doesn’t end our struggle with sin. No matter when we were baptized, we will still struggle with temptation, and at times in our lives, we will fall into sin and need God’s mercy. While St. Paul is primarily speaking about baptism, I believe his words remain true to us when it comes to confession as well. In our sin, we are dead, but through the grace of God, we are brought to life.
For me, it is powerful that St. Paul explains that our sins are nailed to the cross. Our sin is put to death, as St. Paul explains that God has removed all of the bonds that sin has against us and it’s legal claims. In confession, God is not only removing the sin from our midst’s he to is putting that sin to death and bringing us to new life.
St. Paul’s words bring me to reflect on my own experience of confession. Do I realize that all of the sins I have committed and confessed to the priest have been removed and no longer have any claim to me? When I fall into sin, do I let the sin weigh me down or do I seek out confession as soon as I can? I can say that almost 100% of the time, the priest I go to confession with is caring, loving, understanding of what I’m going through. It’s not that he lets me off of the hook for my sins, but rather instead of being hard on me and judgmental, he does his best to show God’s mercy and forgiveness.
I must also remember a great mystery in the Church that happens at every confession and many other of the sacraments. You may have heard the idea that the priest is in the person of Christ. What this means is that Jesus is present in the person of the priest when he celebrates the sacraments. So when I go to confession I’m not speaking to the priest I am speaking to Jesus Christ present in the priest!
I encourage you, especially if you haven’t been to confession in a while to find the time to go to a priest. Here at St. Joseph, we have confession 30 minutes before every daily mass and confession before Mass on Saturday. We won’t know who you are as confession here is behind a screen!
We may be scared to reveal to someone else our sin. Just know that the seal of confession forbids us from revealing anything and no matter the circumstances, we can’t tell a soul what we heard in the confessional. Secondly, from my experience as a priest, I hear so many confessions I likely won’t remember what you told me anyway.
Finally, confession is not only just a means for our forgiveness of sin, but it too can help us out in many other ways. It can help us to lead a better life; it can help us overcome sinful habits, it can help us resist temptation in the future and so many other things. Confession is a great help for our spiritual journey’s, and even if we don’t feel we may not have much to confess, it can still be a great help. So I leave all of us with a challenge even myself, to find time to go to confession or a more regular basis and don’t be afraid of the confessional. Through it, God forgives our sins, and God’s mercy and healing grace is poured out upon us!