Thoughts from a Convert in the Confessional Line

 

I’m not going to write an apologetic for why confession makes sense. I’ve written that before.

Suffice to say, if you believe, as I do, that the Catholic Church exists in a long line of successors right back to the very first apostles appointed by Christ, then confession makes sense.

“Whoever’s sins you forgive are forgiven,” Christ told his hand-picked apostles. The Catholic Church carries on that sacred tradition, two-thousand years later.

That a priest can “forgive” my sins is really a misnomer. He’s imparting Christ’s forgiveness to me through the authority of his office—which can be traced back to the authority given to the apostles by Christ.

Anyway.

This Lent, our parish sponsored a 12-hour confession marathon. We do it every year, and it’s beautiful.

There’s something wholly holy—something deeply sacred—about seeing a line-up stretching out the door of broken people (and we’re all broken, honestly) who want nothing more than to make things right with God.

And, honestly, the first time I knelt in confession and heard the priest say, “Your sins are forgiven.” I was hooked.

Then and there, and months and years later, it made total sense to me why Christ would establish this as his mechanism for forgiveness. Because to hear another human being—empowered by Christ Himself—say, “You are forgiven,” is utterly life-changing.

There are words that Christ would say, where He there on the other side of that screen.

And, heck, it sounds a lot like him no matter who the priest is on the other side.

I waited in that long line today after work. I had, on my iPad, the Evening Prayer of today’s Liturgy of the Hours. I’ve been praying the Morning and Evening Office this Lent and although that’s another article for another time I have to say: it’s changed my life. Anyway, that’s what I was doing, waiting in line and praying Vespers.

And so, OK, there is coincidence and then there is divine providence and I’ll let you decide which this was, but here’s the text to Psalm 31, the second reading in the Evening Prayer,

Blessed is he whose sins are forgiven,
whose transgressions are hidden away.
Happy the man to whom the Lord imputes no blame,
 and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

While I kept silent,
 my bones grew old
as I groaned all day long.
While your hand lay heavy on me,
by day and by night,
 my strength was dried up as if by summer heat.

I made my sin known to you,
and I did not hide my faults.
I said “I will bear witness against myself before the Lord,”
 and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

This is why every saint will pray to you in due time,
 and even in the great flood he will not be touched.
You are my refuge, you will preserve me from trouble,

you will surround me with cries of deliverance.

Beautiful, yeah?

And remarkable.

As I’m standing in line, waiting to confess my sins, there couldn’t have been a clearer voice speaking to me if it had yelled in my ear.

Praise be to God.

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