Protestants, do you know why we Catholics go to reconciliation? Do you know why we confess our sins to a priest? I ask because lately I’ve been hearing a lot of complaint from you folks – mostly Evangelicals and Baptists – about “antiquated teaching”, “humiliation”, “unecessary guilt” and a whole lot of ruckus about some fellow named Jesus being the only mediator between God and man. Which is why I, the confessional’s most frequent visitor, have got some fightin’ words to throw down.
The first are from that Jesus man: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” (John 20:23)
Now for some of you, that verse might be enough to convince you of the legitimacy of Reconciliation. All I’d have to do is slap that down and give you a face that looks something like this:
|Accept common sense or Chesterton will cry.|
But for those scrappy types that don’t go down until the 9th inning*, let me explain:
In case my logical thread was lost, I’ll boil it down: if Jesus Christ did not only give certain men the power to forgive sins, then He gave every man the power to forgive sins. So, Protestants, why do you not forgive one another’s sins? Why, when a brother commits an evil act do you not lay your hands on his head and tell him, “I forgive you, and therefore you are totally forgiven.” Granted, I’m glad that you don’t. There should remain some of the Jewish outrage that “only God has the power to forgive sins.”
So listen. My claim is that by your refusal to commit the blasphemy of claiming to forgive sins, you admit that it is a power reserved only for certain men. Do not blame Catholics, then, for going to confession. We have those certain men. They wear collars.
But, “Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man” (1 Timothy 2:5), no? Well yes, in the ultimate sense “no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). But that does not mean that no one can talk to the Father through anyone but Jesus. If you are praying for a friend, congratulations, you are being a mediator between God and another man. There is no mediator between God and man other than Christ because Christ filled the infinite gap between God and man in his death. But because of that death, we can now play an intimate role within the Trinity, and are blessed to have a Church with the power to bind whatever it would have bound, loose whatever it would have loosed, and forgive whatever sins it would have forgiven, as made explicitly clear in Holy Scripture. Again, to boil it down, any mediation between God and man ultimately is through Jesus who brought the two together, but that in no way disallows others to use the powers clearly and explicitly given to the Church in John 20:23. That would just be contradiction, something the Lord just doesn’t do.
So. That explains why Reconciliation is legitimate, but why is it necessary? Why can’t you just ask God to forgive your sins and be forgiven? Well, believe it or not, the Church teaches that you can. Reconciliation is not the only way to be forgiven, Reconciliation is the only way to know you’re forgiven. I admire the Protestant who sins, works himself into a state of true sorrow for those sins, apologizes fully to God, feels His forgiveness, hears His word in his life, and resolves to make a change. But if we are honest with ourselves, that isn’t always very easy, or even possible. Sometimes it’s very difficult to realize why a sin is wrong, sometimes – and especially with habitual sin – sorrow becomes logical, not emotional, sometimes apologizing to God seems routine, sometimes we sin so often that it is a routine, sometimes we don’t feel forgiven, sometimes we can’t work ourselves up to the state required to realize we are reconciled with God. The Church knows this. The Church, in her wisdom, ritualizes this very divine experience of Reconciliation, so it can be achieved by anyone, no matter what state they are in, no matter what emotions they are feeling. Need to realize you’ve sinned? Well that’s the first part of the ritual, the Examination of Conscience. Need to feel sorry for your sins? Thats part of the ritual, The Act of Contrition. Need to admit? “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.” Need to apologize? Obviously that’s an essential part of the whole Reconciliation thing. Need to hear God’s word in your life? That’s part of the ritual, the priest gives you the words you need to hear. Need to commit to a change? That’s your closing line, to “firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to sin no more, and to avoid the near occasion of sin.” Need to be forgiven? You are, by the same power invested in the apostles in John 20:23.
Also -and here’s what i really love – it’s important to realize that sin does not just affect you and God, but the whole Church. We are the Body of Christ, and just as our good works build up that body, our sins attack it. How important it is then, to admit your sins not only to God but to the Church, the Body of Christ? The priest represents the Church. The priest is a member of that Church. You are reconciled to God, to yourself and to your brothers and sisters in Christ in that confessional. And again, it’s all part of a beautiful ritual, a ritual that remains no matter how you happen to be feeling that day. To my Protestant friends: why DON’T you have confession? Too easy for you?
That was the first of a series of challenges I have for my Protestant brothers and sisters. Sorry if it was too heavy, and without any videos to distract, dear me. Feel free to direct any hard-thinking Protestors to this site for some discussion.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT! I’m already stoked for advent, and so should you be. I will do almost anything for more people to listen to this band.