The Vicar of Christ Behind the Screen
Why Priest are mandatory for the Sacrament of Reconciliation
During the beautiful season of Christmas, we were “preparing the way of the Lord,” as John the Baptist said to do. In preparation, we attended mass, Celebrated Christmas, but most importantly, we were called to receive the sacrament of confession before receiving Christ into our hearts on Christmas day. The sacrament of confession is a beautiful act of humility that mends the wounds of sin.
Baptism is dispensed to remove the stain of original sin inherited from Adam and any sins committed before baptism. Sins committed after baptism require the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Sin is the great divide between God and man. Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, man is reconciled with God and forgiven of his sins. Man is brought back into communion with God to receive Him more intimately in Holy Eucharist. Christ instituted the sacred Eucharist and reconciliation and later commanded his Priest to administer them. Therefore, it is the Priest's call, through his spiritual fatherhood, to guide his church to holiness. Catholic Priest follows Christ in His mercy, love, and conviction. However, some believe that they can receive the same graces if a confession is said in private. The catechism states, "It is called the sacrament of confession since the disclosure or confession of sins to a priest is an essential element of this sacrament. in a profound sense, it is also a "confession" acknowledgment and praise of the holiness of God and of his mercy toward sinful man" The priest is mandatory in confessionals because they offer guidance, conviction. God grants the penitent’s pardon and peace by the priest's sacramental absolution. When man sins, he sins against God and his neighbor. Though forgiveness can be received directly from God, it is also true that God created order. He uses instruments and people, priests, to channel His love and forgiveness. Therefore, God blessed man with the ministry of reconciliation. Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself… So, we are ambassadors of Christ, God making his appeal through us.” (2 Cor 5:18-20 RSV).
A priest is a medium, means of expression between God, Christ, and the sinner. By confessing one's sins to a priest, one is given an outlet by which they can be confronted in their guilt. The sinner is also provided an opportunity to witness how God's mercy works personally. A priest is given graces by Christ's word and power to forgive sins. In John 20:23, Christ said, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Christ warned his apostles that if the sinner neglected to hear their faults tell the church, and if he does not listen to the church, he must be taken to a debt collector. Upon saying this, he declared, “Truly, I say unto you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” According to the Catechism, the words “bind and loose” mean, “whomever you exclude from your communion, will be excluded from communion with God; whomever you receive anew into your communion, will be welcome back into His.” Therefore, Priest, successors of the apostles, were given the grace and power from God to bind and lose here on earth. All priests are called to be vicars of Christ, to show his mercy, guidance, and admonishment to all sinners. A priest not only offers absolution but, in situations where this is appropriate, the Priest will escort the penitent on what obstacles remain to be overcome to receive absolution. The Priest is given the authority and responsibility to either forgive or not forgive the sins confessed. He must ordinarily hear the specific sins of the penitent and their expression of repentance, sorrow for their sins, and their resolution to avoid committing those sins in the future. This is the essential difference between simply praying that one's sins would be forgiven and the exchange between priest and penitent in this Sacrament. Therefore, Confession with a priest dramatically increases one's relationship with God. Because we are cleansed and absolved of our sins through confession, we can receive communion at mass that allows us to receive Christ with a pure heart and humility.
Through Confession with a priest, one can meet Christ with humility and communion with him again. After Confession, the Priest offers a penance so that the humble of the heart may leave the confessional with a goal to sin no more. Therefore, the time is now, whether you are a regular in the Confession line or haven’t been back since your first confession. As we approach the season of Lent, preparation to walk Calvary with Christ, now is the time to begin “preparing."