Reflection: Thoughts About Confession
by Father Don Thomas
Why do we have to confess our sins to a Priest? Why can't we just tell God directly our sins? After all, there is only one true mediator and that is Jesus Christ. I personally do not believe in a middle-man since the Bible tells us clearly that Christ is the one true mediator. No man can forgive sins — only God can forgive sin Hundreds of times I have heard non-Catholics say something like this: Father, I am a Baptist, or I am a Methodist, and don't get me wrong, I do not dislike the Catholic Church--in fact many of my friends are Catholic, but in this matter of Confession, I do not understand why my Catholic partner or my Catholic friends go to the priest, because the priest is only human, and the only one that can forgive sin is God. I say again that I do not believe in a middle-man because the Bible says there is only one mediator and that is Jesus Christ. That is why I believe that if I commit a sin, it is between God and myself. You can talk until midnight and you won't change my mind.
Well, let me begin by saying that I want to congratulate you for speaking up in your disagreement, and because of that I am going to peg you as a very intelligent and a very sincere person. In fact, for sincerity, I am going to give you 100%. That is a great mark —100% for sincerity. However, for honesty, I am not going to give you a mark, but I feel that I can easily prove that you are a very dishonest person — dishonest with God, with yourself and with all those with whom you discuss this topic of Confession. Here is what I mean when I say you are not honest : Can I say a few things to you at this time? You said you were a Baptist and I was very pleased to hear that. You said you go to the Baptist Church and I was pleased to hear that. Are you baptized in any religion? Oh, yes, I am baptized in the Baptist religion and so are my parents and brothers and sisters. Yes, I am baptized — very definitely.
Well that is wonderful and I congratulate you on that. Do you know when you got baptized and where? Oh, yes, at the Trinity Baptist Church right here in Friendswood, Texas. Our whole family got baptized on the same day — Christmas Eve of 1996. We will never forget it and it was Rev.James Little who baptized all of us. Well to that I would say "Praise God and Congratulations".
It must have been one of the happiest days of your lives. But wait a minute! Here is where I feel I can show how dishonest you are being. I loved the way you told me "when, where and how you were baptized — it was great. But when I asked who baptized you, I was shocked very seriously. Why? Because in asking who baptized you, I was ready to bet any amount of money that you were going to say that either God did it or else you baptized yourself.
Up above, you said very seriously that your salvation is so personal that it is between your self and God that you did not believe in a middle-man (and you quoted the Bible to prove it (only one mediator, Jesus Christ). Well, who is this Rev. James Little? Isn't he a man? And I thought you did not believe in a middle- man. You are not being honest right there and neither are all the others who get baptized by their ministers. Yet, you did the right thing in going to your minister, because he is used by God as his instrument for the forgiveness of sin in which we are all conceived.
So right there, I am proving how you are being dishonest with God and yourself, yet you are still very sincere. You say your salvation is between yourself and God, and yet you go to a minister to get baptized. Therefore you do believe in a middleman, whether you like to hear it or not .
Now no man can forgive sins Actually, that is the teaching of the Catholic Church also. That is what I believe as a Catholic Priest. But here is the big distinction that must be made. Can a man by his own power forgive sins? No — not at all. Can a man be used by god as an instrument for forgiving sins ? Yes, and your baptism was an example of that, for the Bible says so clearly; "Through baptism, we are buried with Christ in a death to sin. So God can use men, women and children as instruments for the forgiveness of sin and he does this every day.
Practically. God does the forgiving; man is the instrument . Incidentally, on Easter Sunday, Protestant Ministers and Catholic Priests all over the world read the Gospel in which it points out: Peace be with you. Whose sins you shall forgive, they will be forgiven, and whose sins. you shall retain, they shall be retained.
Who was Jesus talking to when He rose from the dead and appeared to the Apostles? He was talking to them and they were men, and He was giving them the power to forgive sins, not in their own names, but in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Going back to Baptism, what does the Baptist minister say? I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . You see, he understands that he is not doing it in his own name and so does the Catholic Priest or Deacon when they baptize.
It is all a matter of instrumentality. The following is a terrific way to help people understand Confession and the role of the priest. Keep in mind, that priests have to confess to other priests and so does the pope. If this was all made up by the church, you can be sure that the pope and all the clergy would have been excluded and it would be just for the people. No, it is for everyone! But read on and see if this does not make the plan clear.
Two questions we ask: Who alone can create life? Who alone can forgive sins? The answer to both questions is "God".
Taking life first, what plan did God come up with? When He created Adam and Eve, they did not have a mother or a father. They were created directly. When Mary got pregnant with the Christ Child, there was no help from Joseph or any other man. He was created directly as a miracle on the part of God. But ordinarily how is life produced? God uses the bodies of men and women, maybe three thousand times a day, to bring life into the world — and what all of this means is that God can create life directly and indirectly .
And so it is with sin . God can forgive sin directly, with no one's help. He does not need anyone. But as with life, if God reveals a plan for creating life or for forgiving sins, we have to accept that plan whether we like it or not, whether it is convenient or inconvenient.
What would a couple think some night at the supper table when their twelve- year-old daughter shocks them with the statement out of the blue: "Mom and Dad, I've been doing a lot of thinking and when I grow up and get married, I'm going to have my babies in three months. The parents say, “What was that again”? The daughter repeats that she was going to have her babies in three months. The parents say, "No way". The girl now wants to bet money that she will do it her way, but the parents persist, telling their daughter for the first time in her life about the plan that God has for marriage and for the conception and growth of children.
The girl is so surprised and now admits how wrong she was with her plan. That is right — her plan called for three months, and God has a plan that usually calls for nine months. I would not bet on her plan either. But after now understanding what God's plan is, the girl is still cute enough to come back and say, "Well, Mom and Dad, at least you have to admit one thing — my plan was more convenient — ha-ha'.
It surely was more convenient, and all the men would admit that. But convenience is not the standard for right and wrong and for morality. God has a plan for life; God has a plan for the forgiveness of sin. If I were a betting person, I would bet that His plan is going to win out.
Finally, men , women and children who are instructed properly may baptize in case of an emergency. And it does have to be an emergency. If done properly, Original Sin is forgiven and other sins as well. This why I stated above that God can use men, women and children as instruments. It is not just the priest. That is where the Protestant minister fits into the picture. He is an instrument of God.
In the words of absolution that the priest says, please note who is the instrument and who does the forgiving.
“Through the ministry of the church, may god give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you in the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit". Amen
(Whoever reads this can develop it even more. This is only intended as a help.)
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