Exploring the Biblical Roots of the Sacrament of Confession

To many non-Catholics, the Sacrament of Confession is a weird thing.

Why do you go to a priest for Confession?”

Where is Confession in the Bible?

Yes, a lot of people want to know the details behind the biblical roots of the sacrament. To outsiders looking in, especially those of the Protestant persuasion, this practice is a product of later development of the Church or just some convoluted process for salvation.

But all the sacraments of the Catholic Church are rooted in Sacred Scripture and are given to us by Jesus Christ. So when a non-Catholic friend of yours asks where is Confession in the Bible, you have a scriptural response and proof text to point them to.

But a quick note about this sacrament: it has different titles but all of which point to its true essence.

It’s called Reconciliation because our grave sins alienate us from God. However, through confessing our sins, our relationship that was severed is now reconciled back in love.

It’s called Confession because of the act of humbly admitting our mortal sins to a priest. It’s like we’re coming clean, letting the sin off our chest.

One of my favorite places in the Bible that shows the roots of the Sacrament of Confession is John 20:21-23

21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so, I am sending you.” 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

The great thing about this verse from Jesus Christ is it’s very clear. There is no way to wiggle around the literal meaning of what Jesus commands his disciples to do when he ascends into heaven.

Here Jesus Christ conferred his priesthood on the disciples. Now, they would continue the work he had done on earth. Jesus came preaching about the kingdom of God, he was forgiving sins and ultimately he reconciled people to God. People came to him asking for healing, but through his healing, came a restored relationship with God.

The disciples would do the same!

One of the greatest joys of being Catholic is this great sacrament. No longer do I have to worry if my faults were truly forgiven. Now, I have objective certainty from the priest in the person of Christ of my forgiveness. Hearing the words of absolution is a profound theological truth about Christ. Specifically, he is in the business of reconciling.

Next time in Confession, ponder the true love of God through the sacrament!

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