For Catholics, going to confession is an essential part of our spiritual lives. The Church requires us to go at least once a year, and it strongly encourages us to go far more often than that.
Maybe you sometimes wonder why this is so important. After all, most Protestants say that if you simply confess your sins to Jesus, you’re good to go!
But that’s not what Christians have traditionally understood. Here are some reasons why you need the Sacrament of Confession (or Reconciliation).
1. Jesus gave His apostles and their successors the power to forgive sins in His name
In Scripture, we see Jesus instituting the Sacrament of Confession in the Gospel of John 20:21-23: “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.’”
Notice how Jesus didn’t say, “If you confess all your sins directly to me, they’ll be completely forgiven.” No, He wanted to involve His representatives on earth in this ministry of mercy — even giving them the authority to withhold forgiveness if they thought it necessary.
2. Confession goes with our human nature
The logic of the Sacrament of Confession is also the logic of the other sacraments: We humans are made up of a material body and spiritual soul. Therefore, God saves us through spirit and matter.
The sacraments are visible signs that actually give the spiritual grace they signify. In confession, you receive the spiritual grace of forgiveness, but this comes through the sensible words and gestures of the priest.
3. Your sins hurt not only you, but also the entire Body of Christ
For Catholics, our faith is not merely a private affair. It’s not simply you and Jesus. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, you’re incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ. You are united to everyone else in the Church by bonds of charity.
But just as an illness in one part of the human body can hurt other parts, so the sins of one member of the Body of Christ affect everyone else. By going to confession, you’re not only healing yourself, but you’re also helping to heal the Church.
When you confess to a representative of the Church, it highlights the fact that we are all united in Christ.
4. Being free of your sins is an incredible joy!
A word of caution here: Don’t judge the quality of your confession by how you feel afterward. It’s possible to have made the best confession ever, received God’s forgiveness, and then not feel any joy afterward. And there’s no reason to be concerned over that.
Still, many of us have experienced an incredible sense of freedom and joy after going to confession. For those leaving a life of serious sin, it can feel like an enormous weight has been lifted off their shoulders. It’s amazing!
But even if you don’t experience such elation, you can be at peace knowing your sins have been forgiven and you have another chance to serve the Lord.
Sadly, we’ve seen many Catholics abandon confession over the past half-century. If only they knew what they were missing! If you already go to the sacrament frequently, keep it up. If it has been a while, remember that Jesus is waiting for you with open arms!
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).