14. Why should I confess my sins to a fellow man when I can go direct to God? I don’t need a priest to forgive me.
If forgiveness of sin only required that I speak to God directly and tell him that I was sorry, then Christ would never have instituted forgiveness of sin by his priests. But this he did when he said to the Church: “whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained”. (John 20:23). These words have always been understood by the Church as demanding more from the penitent than the telling of his sins directly to God in the privacy of his room.
Why did Christ decide to give us this sacrament? The reason was to make allowance for our human nature which requires signs. For example if you have done serious damage to someone and after a while you are sorry and go to tell the person, you will not be happy until you get some sign that you have been forgiven, e.g. the person throwing his arms around you. The sacrament of confession is like this. It is a sign of God’s love and forgiveness. It is like the meeting of the penitent woman with Jesus in Luke 7:36-48 when Jesus said to her: “Your sins are forgiven”. This was a very special moment, giving her an assurance of love and forgiveness and increasing her own conversion and sorrow as she experienced Christ’s love and forgiveness. When we go to Confession we meet Christ just as this woman did. Imagine the woman coming to the door of Simon’s house where she knew Christ was, then turning back and saying: “I think I will go home and tell my sins directly to God”.
Confession also helps us to face the truth about ourselves and see our nakedness before God, and it prevents us from drifting along from year to year.
It is a pity that this great sacrament is not valued ore today. It has become a sort of denominational football, as a matter of debate, instead of being seen for what it is, a personal meeting with Jesus who throws his arms around us like the father of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15.