September 10, 2015

The Power of Confession

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a unique and beautiful aspect of Catholicism. Jesus Christ, out of abundant love and mercy, established the Sacrament of Confession. Through it, we can obtain forgiveness for our sins and reconcile with God and the Church. 
Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send 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.'
— John 20:21-23 


The means by which God forgives sins after baptism is confession: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Minor or venial sins can be confessed directly to God, but for grave or mortal sins, which crush the spiritual life out of the soul, God has instituted a different means for obtaining forgiveness—the sacrament known popularly as confession, penance, or reconciliation. 

This sacrament is rooted in the mission God gave to Christ in his capacity as the Son of man on earth to go and forgive sins (cf. Matt. 9:6). Thus, the crowds who witnessed this new power "glorified God, who had given such authority to men" (Matt. 9:8; note the plural "men"). After his resurrection, Jesus passed on his mission to forgive sins to his ministers, telling them, "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. . . . Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20:21–23). 

Since it is not possible to confess all of our many daily faults, we know that sacramental reconciliation is required only for grave or mortal sins—but it is required, or Christ would not have commanded it.

Over time, the forms in which the sacrament has been administered have changed. In the early Church, publicly known sins (such as apostasy) were often confessed openly in church, though private confession to a priest was always an option for privately committed sins. 
Priests have received a power which God has given neither to angels nor to archangels. It was said to them: 'Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose, shall be loosed.' Temporal rulers have indeed the power of binding; but they can only bind the body. Priests, in contrast, can bind with a bond which pertains to the soul itself and transcends the very heavens. Did [God] not give them all the powers of heaven? 'Whose sins you shall forgive,' he says, 'they are forgiven them; whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.' What greater power is there than this? The Father has given all judgment to the Son. And now I see the Son placing all this power in the hands of men [Matt. 10:40; John 20:21–23]. They are raised to this dignity as if they were already gathered up to heaven" (The Priesthood 3:5 [A.D. 387]).  
 — St. John Chrysostom
Daughter, when you go to confession, to this fountain of My mercy, the Blood and Water which came forth from My Heart always flows down upon your soul and ennobles it. Every time you go to confession, immerse yourself in My mercy, with great trust, so that I may pour the bounty of My grace upon your soul. When you approach the confessional, know this, that I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest, but I myself act in your soul. Here the misery of the soul meets the God of mercy. Tell souls that from this fount of mercy souls draw graces solely with the vessel of trust. If their trust is great, there is no limit to My generosity. The torrents of grace inundate humble souls. The proud remain always in poverty and misery, because My grace turns away from them to humble souls. 
 — St. Faustina, Divine Mercy in My Soul
A humble confession displeases Satan and, if he could, he would make you omit Holy Communion.
  — Imitation of Christ
Confession is an act of honesty and courage - an act of entrusting ourselves, beyond sin, to the mercy of a loving and forgiving God.
 — St. John Paul II
Just as an animal becomes a stronger beast of burden and more beautiful to behold the more often and better it is fed, so too confession - the more often it is used and the more carefully it is made as to both lesser and greater sins - conveys the soul increasingly forward and is so pleasing to God that it leads the soul to God's very heart. 
— Revelations of St. Bridget 
You told me, Father, that after my past life it is still possible to become another St. Augustine. I don't doubt it, and today more than yesterday I want to try to prove it.' But you have to cut out sin courageously from the root, as the holy Bishop of Hippo did.
— Saint Josemaria Escriva
To do penance is to bewail the evil we have done, and to do no evil to bewail.
— Pope St. Gregory the Great
Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin, all hope consists in confession; in confession there is a chance for mercy.
— St. Isidore of Seville
Strive always to confess your sins with a deep knowledge of your own wretchedness and with clarity and purity.
— St. John of the Cross
After confession, a crown is given to penitents.
— St. John Chrysostom 
If you excuse yourself in confession, you shut up sin within your soul, and shut out pardon. 
— St. Augustine
Good Christians make an examination of conscience and an act of contrition every evening. There was a devout monk lying at the point of death; when his Superior came and told him to make his confession, he answered: "Blessed be God! I have for thirty years made an examination of conscience every evening, and have made my confession every day as if I were at the point of death.
— St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori
We come to confession quite preoccupied with the shame that we shall feel. We accuse ourselves with hot air. It is said that many confess, and few are converted. I believe it is so, my children, because few confess with tears of repentance. See, the misfortune is, that people do not reflect. If one said to those who work on Sundays, to a young person who had been dancing for two or three hours, to a man coming out of an alehouse drunk, "What have you been doing? You have been crucifying Our Lord!" they would be quite astonished, because they do not think of it. My children, if we thought of it, we should be seized with horror; it would be impossible for us to do evil. For what has the good God done to us that we should grieve Him thus, and put Him to death again — Him, who has redeemed us from Hell? It would be well if all sinners, when they are going to their guilty pleasures, could, like St. Peter, meet Our Lord on the way, who would say to them, "I am going to that place where you are going yourself, to be there crucified again." Perhaps that might make them reflect. 
— St. Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney

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