The Easter Duty and Confession

04-18-2021Weekly Reflection

The second precept of the Church (“You shall confess your sins at least once a year.") The third precept (“You shall humbly receive your Creator in Holy Communion at least during the Easter season.") The Easter Season for this purpose extends from the 1st Sunday of Lent until Trinity Sunday.

Objections to Confession and Catholic Responses

Objection #1 – Only God can forgive sin. It is true that only God can forgive sin (on His own authority). God is the Person forgiving sin in Confession.

The “I” in “I absolve you” refers to Jesus Himself, God the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. The priest acts in the Person of Jesus Christ through Holy Orders through the power of the Holy Spirit. However the “I” in “I absolve you” refers to Christ not the individual priest.

Objection #2 – But I don’t need a priest, I can go directly to God and ask forgiveness. Anyone, of course, can go directly to God and pray for forgiveness. Indeed we should do so as soon as we are aware of having sinned. But the Church teaches and the Scriptures support that God desires people to confess to him through his priests. The Jewish leaders persisted in accusing Jesus of forgiving sins. And Jesus admitted that he did. The above passage from Matthew 9 demonstrates that Jesus did so in his human nature, having authority from God. In the passage from John 20: 19-23 Jesus states specifically that he was passing on this ministry and authority, given him by the Father, to his apostles. People of his day denied that Jesus had this power. They were wrong then and are wrong now.

Objection #3 – At Mass I confess my sins when the priest says let us call to mind our sins and I say “I confess to Almighty God and you my brothers and sisters” and when I pray Lord have mercy or when I say “O Lord I am not worthy…say but the word and my soul shall be healed.” The penitential-rite of the Mass is not Confession. It does not forgive mortal sins. When we say the “I confess” at Mass this is not sacramental Confession. It is doing something taught by St. James in his letter in the Scriptures where he says: So confess your sins to one another… Mortal sin is committed when there is serious matter, the person knows this, and fully consents to it.

Objection #4 – The Bible does not teach that a man can forgive sin. The Scriptures contain the following: “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘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 20:19-23, emphasis added)

Objection #5 – If you are saved, nothing more is required. When a person is saved, he cannot lose his salvation. All of your arguments presume that one can lose salvation. Salvation can indeed be lost. It is possible to reject this freely offered gift of salvation from God through future sin. If we lose this grace, we once again accept his call through sacramental confession. The notion of “once saved, always saved” is not only not found in scripture, we are warned against believing in such a thing.“Now I am reminding you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you indeed received and in which you also stand. Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2, emphasis added) Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall. Therefore, brothers, be all the more eager to make your call and election firm, for, in doing so, you will never stumble. For, in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you (2 Peter 1,10-11 emphasis added)

Objection #6 – Evidence shows that Catholic Sacraments do not work. Confession is nothing more than a permission slip to keep on sinning. People keep on sinning after going to Confession, so it doesn’t work. Same with the Sacrament of the Sick – people are anointed but die anyway. Doesn’t this prove that your sacraments are not effective? With regard to the Sacrament of the Sick, the Church does not teach that it is a guaranteed cure for bodily illness. She teaches it gives some healing of the body according to God’s will and healing of the soul. For example, when it is time for a person to die, the sacrament gives some healing of the body and healing of the spirit to prepare for the passage from this life to the next. St. James says: “Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters (the ancient name for priests) of the church, and they should pray over him and anoint (him) with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.” (James 5:14-15)

With regard to the sacrament of Confession, the grace of the sacrament helps the person to avoid future sin; it is not a guarantee against all future sin. The human being has free will and must continually cooperate with God’s grace to choose to do what’s right and avoid sin but it is a one-day-at-a-time process. If we do fail, we can always turn to the mercy of God in His Sacraments. That’s why they are there.

Confession Should Be Concise, Concrete, Clear, and Complete.

Concise: Confession with few words, just the words needed to say humbly what we have done or have failed to do, without any unnecessary elaboration.

Concrete: Confession should be without digression, without generalities. The penitent should humbly indicate his/her situation and also the time elapsed since the last Confession and the difficulties he/she finds in leading a Christian life. He/she declares his/her sins and the surrounding circumstances that have a bearing on the sins so that the confessor may judge in the Person of Christ; absolve in the Person of Christ; and heal in the Person of Christ.
Clear: A Confession where we make ourselves understood declaring the precise nature of the sin, manifesting our sinfulness with the necessary modesty and delicacy.

Complete: Confession should be integral, without leaving anything out through a false sense of shame so as not to appear bad in the eyes of the priest hearing the confession. All mortal sins must be confessed by number and kind.
Remember: The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches the following: (#2181) The Sunday Mass is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason Catholics are obliged to participate in the Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation unless excused for a serious reason like illness. Those who deliberately fail in this regard commit a mortal sin. Cardinal Dolan has stated that it is time for Catholics to come back to Mass on Sunday with the usual safeguards for one’s health.

Remember: The 6th Commandment teaches us to avoid the grave sins against chastity, sex with oneself, sex before marriage, pornography, and homosexual practices. The 9th Commandment reminds us to pray for purity of heart, dress and act modestly, and avoid the near occasions which incline us to sin sexually.

Remember: The 8th Commandment obliges us to respect the good name and reputation of our neighbor. Have we without sufficient reason believed something harmful to another’s character (rash judgment)? Have we revealed the hidden faults of another without good reason (detraction)? Have we by lying injured the good name of another (calumny/slander)?