Thursday, November 27, 2003
Is Confession Based on the Bible?
posted by Kensy |
Q: I cannot find anything in the Bible about Christians confessing to another human being, like a priest.
My understanding is that we are to confess our sins to Jesus and ask for his forgiveness, which he gives to those who are truly sorry.
Even though I was brought up Catholic, I haven’t gone to Confession in years because I do not believe in telling my sins to anyone, including a priest.
Why doesn’t the Catholic Church have open confession during weekly Masses?
A: The Sacrament of Penance has evolved over the years, always in harmony with its biblical roots.
After his Resurrection, Jesus told the apostles, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:23).
The Letter of James says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful” (5:16).
Confessing one’s sins to someone designated by the Church reaffirms our belief that God can act through created things and through people. That belief helps us understand Jesus’ Incarnation and the sacraments.
During his earthly life, Jesus was a visible sign, a sacrament, of God’s love. After Jesus’ Ascension, the Church continues that sign, although imperfectly this side of heaven. The Sacrament of Penance flows from Jesus’ Incarnation and his followers’ sense of communion with God and each other.
“Open confession” may sound good, but would it be the personal encounter which the present practice offers?
At a time when we see a tremendous flight from personal responsibility, do we want personal repentance to become “...and for whatever I may have done wrong”?
You may not intend that, but I suspect that’s where the open confession you describe would probably lead.
Last August, approximately two million young people attended World Youth Day in Rome. Many of them went to individual confession in the Circus Maximus. Would they have had a stronger sense of God’s love for them as individuals if a priest or bishop had given general absolution instead? Probably not.
Confession has been the occasion for many people to appreciate how much God loves them and how much they have resisted that love.
Most parishes schedule a Penance service during Lent, with opportunity for individual confession. Why not participate in one of them?