By Martina Casey
Recently I attended a talk by Catholic author, Scott Hahn. A man of faith and fatherly wisdom, Mr. Hahn said he goes to confession weekly. Back in 2013 Pope Francis said that he goes to confession every two weeks and St. John Paul II went weekly. Why? And why should we care?
Let’s take a look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (“CCC”) says first and then look at three reason why you should follow the example of the three great men mentioned above.
According to the CCC, “The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church in order to make a new future possible” (CCC1455).
The above paragraph is talking about a threefold reconciliation, that is, 1. renewed communion with God, 2. reconciliation with others and 3. freedom for self. Let’s take a look at each.
Get right with God. The foremost business of our lives is our relationship with Jesus. To grow deeper in love with Him, know Him and serve Him. Confession deepens that relationship by allowing us to reach into the heart of Jesus. The CCC puts it this way: “Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him.” (CCC1440) When we confess our sins frequently that rupture is sutured: “God gives us the strength to begin anew. It is in discovering the greatness of God’s love that our heart is shaken by the horror and weight of sin and begins to fear offending God by sin and being separated from him. The human heart is converted by looking upon him whom our sins have pierced” (CCC1432).
Get right with neighbor. I’m a genuinely nicer person after confession. My tantruming toddler isn’t just another annoyance but a little person who’s trying to tell me, in the only language she knows, that she’s unhappy. I’m also a more accepting wife and tolerant friend. Why? Because we tend to be harder on others when we are hard on ourselves, and we are hard on ourselves because we aren’t right with God, see point #1.
Confession wipes the slate clean and helps us see ourselves and others with the eyes of Jesus. “Many sins wrong our neighbor. One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm (e.g., return stolen goods, restore the reputation of someone slandered, pay compensation for injuries). Simple justice requires as much. But sin also injures and weakens the sinner himself…” (CCC1459), which brings me to:
Get straight with self. A year ago a priest, who I frequently saw for confession, pointed out something that in hindsight seems so obvious but I never fully recognized for what it was. He was direct, I’d say almost harsh, but his honesty opened the door to self-reflection that blew open an area of my life that I was running from.
Confession prods into areas of our lives that keep us from a more meaningful relationship with our Lord. It’s also an exercise in humility; to confess to another human being we don’t know well. On the other hand, it isn’t just another human being we are confessing to. In St. Faustina’s Diary, Jesus says that the priest is “only a screen,” (1448), and that it’s Him acting through the priest: “I Myself am waiting there for you. I am only hidden by the priest… I Myself act in your soul” (1602).
St. Faustina pray for us. St. John Vianney pray for our priests.