2nd Sunday of Easter:
Today we celebrate what is called Divine Mercy Sunday. Today we hear in the gospel Christ bestowing the power of his mercy upon the apostles. Receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven. How amazing a gift is this?
As a priest I am privileged to have received this power of absolution, this power of forgiveness. If I stop and think about it, it gives me goose bumps to think that Jesus Christ himself handed this power to the apostles, and they handed it down to the next generation, who handed it down, etc all the way to me on the day of my ordination.
One question I get sometimes is this: why do I need to confess my sins to a priest? I just ask God to forgive me. Now, I certainly would never say that God cannot forgive sins outside of confession. He is God, he can certainly do that. But, the reason why we confess our sins to priests is because this is the express will of Christ. He was the one who instituted the sacrament of confession. And, since he is the Son of God, maybe he knows what he is doing.
There are many benefits to confessing our sins to priests. First, sin loves to hide in the darkness. There is nothing better to allow sin to flourish and grow than the dark hidden places in our hearts and souls. When we let sins stay there, deep down, they have the ability to weaken us and drag us down. Confession does not allow us to leave sins in the dark. It takes great courage to say your sins out loud, but when you do, the light of Christ is able to shine into those dark places. Do don’t be afraid to say your sins to a priest, don’t let them hid in the dark. Go behind the screen if you want, it is about saying the sins out loud that conquers them. Also, don’t go in there trying to explain away the sin, that is like leaving it in the darkness, just go into confession and confess your sin.
Another benefit of confessing your sins to a priest is that you get a chance to hear some advice. I don’t pretend to be an expert or some kind of wonder counselor. But, I have received extensive training in seminary and I have a great deal of experience of helping people in the confessional. I know that in my own life, I have gained many wonderful little insights by priests in the confessional.
A third benefit is that we get to hear the words of absolution. There is something deeply soothing about these words: I absolve you from your sins. Trusting in the power of God and in the fact that Christ gave this power to the priests, we know that when we hear these words, our sins are forgiven. What a wonderful gift that is. We do know that God can forgive sins whenever he wants, but we also know that he definitely does when we make a good confession and we receive our absolution. I wish I could describe the way that people’s faces change whenever I say the words of absolution. I can see their worries and concerns melt under the light of Christ’s mercy.
These are all great benefits. But there is another one. When Christ appears in that room he says: peace be with you. This is the ultimate goal of the sacrament of confession, the peace of Christ. We all know from experience that our sins do not give us peace, they do not give us joy. Christ wants his peace to dwell in the hearts of every disciple, which is why he gives us the sacrament of confession. Confession is the medicine of peace, it is the pathway of peace in our lives. Some people think that confession is something you do when you have gotten rid of all your sins. But, this is not true, this is what sin wants: to stay in the darkness. Rather, confession is the medicine that cures the disease of sin.
One thing that really makes me happy is the devotion to the sacrament of confession here at St. Jude. Many people come to confession here. It is a wonderful sacrament that leads us to the peace of Christ.