Yes, that would be much easier than going through the indignity of telling another human being what I’ve been up to!
But confession is more than simply relating our sins.
I Don’t Need to Be Humble – or Do I?
If we’re really sorry for our sins, we must be humble enough to admit we sinned in the first place. It takes a lot of humility to verbalize our trespasses to another person. Telling God about them in the privacy of our thoughts is just too comfortable.
Plus, we’re not confessing to an ordinary person: the priest is Christ’s minister on earth. So we are telling God about our sins, but in a more humbling situation.
After confessing, we ask for God’s forgiveness, which the priest is able to grant through the act of absolution. Receiving absolution is a wonderful sensation. It’s hard to convey just how liberating it is, being allowed to turn over a new leaf.
Remember when, as a little kid, you did something wrong and were scared of how your parents would react? You put off telling them what you’d done for as long as you could! Then you finally screwed up enough courage to tell them.
Do you recall the great relief when your parents forgave you? That feeling of having the slate wiped clean? You may have had to atone for your behavior, but it was out in the open. You harbored no evil secrets, and felt at peace again.
The other name for confession is ‘reconciliation’ – reconciling us with God our Heavenly Parent.
You don’t look forward to going to confession, but you're sure glad you went!
Permission to Sin all Over Again?
Many non-Catholics suspect confession makes us think it ’O.K.’ to sin again. We’ll always be forgiven, so what’s there to stop us being repeat offenders?
But it's embarrassing to have to confess our sins over and over again! The very fact that we Catholics have to ‘tell all’ is a big deterrent. Once that slate is wiped clean, we try to keep it that way. We won’t succeed completely – we’re only human - but we’re encouraged in our daily struggle not to sin.
State of Grace
Another reason to keep that slate clean is in order to stay in a state of grace. Otherwise we're unable to receive Communion. Receiving our ‘daily bread’ in the form of Communion is vital to a Catholic.
The Long-Time Absentee
Our priest is a great one for encouraging those who’ve been away from the sacrament of confession to come back to it. He’s not going to judge or criticize anyone. He’s there to forgive.
He recently gave a sermon at another parish, explaining that if he persuaded enough penitents to come to confession to him that day he’d be given a cruise to the Bahamas. (Humor is a great trademark of many priests, today, thankfully!)
An old man entered the confessional later and put his hand over the priest’s, saying: “Father, I’ve just upgraded you to first class. It’s been seventy years since my last confession.”
It’s never too late to humble ourselves and seek God’s forgiveness. That is, before we die and that chance is gone.