The Second Precept
We continue this week diving into the precepts of the Catholic Church, the second of which is to confess your sins at least once a year.
And the Church adds to this once-a-year precept to confess any time we are aware of grave sins and that we should not present ourselves to receive Holy Communion if we are not in a state of grace, meaning we are solidly unaware of any grave sins.
But why? And why must I confess to a priest? Can’t I tell God I’m sorry for my sins in the privacy of my own prayer?
YES. And you should! But also recall that the Lord Jesus told the apostles, the first priests, specifically to go out and forgive sins…He gives them the authority and power to forgive in His name (see John 20).
God knows what He is doing, and His judgements are perfect. Sin is essentially us saying “God, I know what you’ve asked me to do, how I should act, but I know better, or I don’t really care.” Sin is our choosing to act contrary to the perfect will of God. It usually goes like this: God says “X is bad for your soul and will ultimately cause you suffering and separation from me.” Then we say “Ok, but I really want X.” And the enemy quietly whispers “X really isn’t that bad. Besides, you should have what you want!” Then we choose X, and wonder why God feels distant, why we are so easily aggravated, why charity is lacking in our speech and thoughts. It’s because we’ve wandered back into the kingdom of Sin and Death that Jesus came to save us from!
Remember that through the sacraments, the graces, the power, the effectiveness of the Paschal Mystery (the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ) are all made radically present and available to us. When we confess our sins in the sacrament of reconciliation, what truly is happening is that we take each sin, as shameful, foolish, dumb, embarrassing, as it is, and we lift it up to Jesus as He is nailed to the cross. He takes it into Himself, into the furnace of Divine Mercy in His Sacred Heart, and claims it as His own sin. He takes the guilt, He takes the punishment our sins deserve. “He who knew no sin was made sin for our sake, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). There on the cross, the sin dies with Jesus, forever. But the soul who confesses is brought back to life as the grace of the Resurrection washes over them with the priestly prayer of absolution “I absolve from your sins…”
Sacramental confession of sins is powerful healing. There is no ultimate happiness outside of the will of God, no matter how suggestive the enemy’s lies are. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you identify your sins, then do a good examination of conscience (you can find tons of helpful resources online), then line up at the Font of Mercy at the confessional. Jesus waits eagerly to forgive and to restore.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!
All you holy saints of God, pray for us!
Peace in Christ,