Confession. Penance. Reconciliation. No matter what we call it, the idea of confessing our sins makes us very uncomfortable. This is the sacrament we love to hate. But the Church believes that all seven Sacraments were instituted by Jesus Christ in order to answer our spiritual needs. In other words, in this sacrament Jesus gives us something we really need but aren't willing to admit it. I could argue this point further but that would require it's own post. For more information see Matthew 9:8.
No human community can survive without forgiveness. No matter how wonderful a person I may be, when I find myself with other people, we will eventually offend and hurt each other. One hurt, then another, and eventually the hurts will destroy whatever community is involved - friendships, a family, a parish, a society. No community can survive without forgiving and being forgiven.
This is where Confession comes in. The priest serves a dual role: He speaks for the human community and he speaks for God. As a representative of the human community, he hears your sins and lets you go free. As a representative speaking for Christ he allows each person to hear Jesus' words addressed to them: "Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace." These words change our lives. Regular Confession makes us more willing to admit faults, sins and shortcomings. Admitting them leads to working on them, and working on them leads to fewer sins.
The frequent reception of forgiveness also makes us more willing to offer forgiveness to others. Even priests have to go to Confession. I can tell you from personal experience that my own commitment to monthly Confession has changed my life for the better. I never like walking into the Confessional, but it almost makes me cry with joy to hear, "I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." Ultimately, this sacrament is not about our sins but about God's merciful love. His mercy not only forgives us, but slowly transforms us into Images of his Son. What a gift that is!!
Why do I have to go to Confession?