The Sacrament of reconciliation20 Feb 2015, by Sacraments in
The Catholic Church believes that only God can forgive sins; man has no power to do that. By the power of his death and resurrection, Jesus saved us from the power of sin. Only by his blood shall our sins be washed away; he is the only mediator between man and God. But one fact we must know is that the way this only mediator between man and God mediates is his choice. He met some persons and said to them, your sins are forgiven you (Lk. 7:48, Mt. 9:2, Lk.5:20). For some others, they had to go through the baptismal water; they had to be baptized by mere mortals to forgive sins. When Peter and the other apostles preached the word of God to the people, the people asked in response, “brethren, what shall we do?” and the answer is “repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins… Acts 2:37-38. The forgiveness came about through baptism in the hands of the apostle in the name of Jesus Christ. They acted on the authority of Jesus Christ, so can this forgiveness take place through the absolution of a validly ordained Priest at the confessional, acting on the same authority of Jesus Christ.
Some argue that we need no other Priest to mediate between man and God; this is very true. We actually need no other Priest because Jesus is the High Priest of our faith (Heb.4:14). A validly ordained Priest shares in the Priesthood of Jesus Christ; in the Catholic Church, the Priests have no Priesthood of their own; they share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. The Priesthood is one, and it is the Priesthood of Jesus Christ. Again, some others argue that Christ has made every believer a Priest (1Peter 2:5-9, Rev. 1:6, and 5:10). Yes, every believer is a Priest, but some are specially called into the ministerial Priesthood, “for every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men concerning God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this, he is bound to offer sacrifice for his own sins and those of the people. And one does not take the honour upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was” (Heb. 5: 1- 4). However, I agree that we are all Priests by our baptism but some are specially chosen and set apart.
The apostles were specially chosen and set apart. Before his crucifixion, Jesus prayed and consecrated the apostles for the work ahead (Jn. 17:1-19) before praying for those who will hear the word of God through them (Jn. 17:20-26). After the resurrection of Jesus, he appeared to the apostles behind a closed door. A closed-door separates rooms and people; the apostles were behind a closed door; they were separated from others; they were set apart. Jesus appeared to them behind a closed door and said to them, “peace be with you… as the Father has sent me, even so, I send you.” They were chosen and sent, and he did not just send them without power and authority; he breathed on them and said, “receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn. 20:19-23). This power to forgive sins was not given to every believer but only to the apostles, those behind a closed door, those set apart. This apostolic authority flowed down to our generation through the laying on of hands. The laying on of hands is a symbolic act that sets one apart, empowered, authorized, and filled with the Holy Spirit. The power to forgive sins is of Christ, given to the apostles, and it is transmitted in the Catholic Church through the apostolic succession. The Catholic Church is truly apostolic because of that apostolic succession. That is why we say in our Creed that we believe in one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.
At the ordination of Catholic Priests, power is given to them through the laying of hands. So, at confessions, you do not confess to man but God, and the Priest exercises his God given authority by absolving you in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is by God’s power, love, and mercy. The Priest has no power of his own.
Remember that the Church is one body; if a part of it is sick, then the whole body is sick. When a member sins, he also sins against the Church. He /she must confess to the Church, and the Priests stand for the Church also.
This sacrament of reconciliation is a wonderful gift of God to the Church; it celebrates God’s mercy and love. As Catholics, share your faith and explain it to those ready to learn and understand us.