Wednesday
Oct082008

Where Do I Go To Confess My Sin?

It is a hackneyed expression that says confession is good for the soul, but trite or not, confession really does have its benefits.

Confession is a powerful part of forgiveness – from God, from others, especially the victims of our sin, and even from ourselves. Guilt tends to cling to the spirit until confession has been pronounced and for good reason. Without confession before God, sin cannot be remitted and instead remains a blot and cancer upon the soul, malignant until Judgment, eternal beyond.

The Roman religion constructs confessional booths inside their meeting palaces where kneeling is more compulsory than willful and a spiritual father promises absolution in exchange for a few acts of contrition (see Matthew 23:9). The authority to forgive sins, however, is not really his to exercise. “Who can forgive sins but God alone” (Mark 2:7)? Even the apostles had only the authority to communicate God’s scheme of forgiveness to mankind (see Matthew 16:17-19, John 20:19-25).

No minister, council or jurist stands in the place of God with your divine forgiveness in his hands. No amount of penance is sufficient to purchase or ensure the Lord’s mercy, although there is likewise no substitute for producing the fruits of repentance (Luke 3:8). Even if your victim might refuse to extend forgiveness to you, it does not follow that the Lord is bound and limited by his hardness. “For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:15-16).

Divine mercy is not dependent upon the victim’s cooperation or the relative anonymity of an ecclesiastical booth. God, who desires that all men be saved and come to repentance, is always prepared to listen to the prayer of the penitent, wherever they happen to find themselves in need of solace (First Peter 3:10-12). To the absolute extent possible, one should be humble and willing enough to confess a wrong before everyone whom he has wronged, as well as all who are aware of his error (see Matthew 18:15-17).

Sometimes sin is extremely private – perhaps entirely contained within the mind of the sinner. His confession can be just as private, made through prayer behind closed doors (see Matthew 6:5-6). When the sin is more widely known, however, the voice of confession must be louder. “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). 

When one wants to be set free from his sin and the stained reputation that follows, he will naturally want all to know of his change of heart (Second Corinthians 7:10-12). Perhaps he comes forward and makes a statement before the church, pens a heartfelt apology or enlists the help of another to describe his remorse. Eager confession is good for the soul.