I sometimes hear from friends (some of whom are Catholic!) that they don’t feel the need to go to confession with a priest. Instead, they tell me that they confess their sins directly to God. It’s their opinion that because they are truly sorry for the wrongs they have done, God is merciful and forgives them.
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? I mean, who wouldn’t want to spare themselves of the need to tell someone else the nature of their sinfulness? It can be embarrassing. I don’t want Father to think less of me.
It makes sense, this going directly to God, except for one little thing.
It doesn’t happen. Most of the time we don’t go directly to God and ask for forgiveness for all of our sins. Why not? Because we are human beings with an ego and we don’t want to feel bad about ourselves. As a result, we find ways to convince ourselves that the sins we commit really aren’t sins at all, or at worst are just minor flaws. In short, we have an almost unlimited ability to deceive ourselves about how profoundly sinful we really have been.
So … what is the antidote?
It’s called the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Confession. When we go and tell our sins to Jesus (it’s really him and not just the priest) we speak our sins with our lips, and in doing so our sinfulness becomes real to us. And then … Jesus tells us that he forgives us, and reminds us (as he always does) to go and sin no more. We walk away free of our failings.
What could be better than that?