Q. Why do Catholics have to confess their sins to a priest instead of praying straight to God?
A. In obedience to Christ.
John 20:19-23 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
After His resurrection, Jesus, appeared to His disciples on Easter Sunday evening. He conferred the power to forgive sins by breathing on them. This corresponds to God breathing life into Adam. And so, Jesus breathes life giving power to forgive sins into his disciples. Note that this is before Pentecost and the general bestowal of the Holy Spirit. This is a special and unique pouring out of the Holy Spirit for the disciples, the first priests and bishops of the Christian Church.
And the purpose of this special dispensation of the Holy Spirit is to empower the apostles with the authority to forgive or not forgive sins in the name of Christ. This specific action cannot mean some sort of general power such as that by the preaching of the Gospel sins are forgiven or not depending upon the hearer. Jesus says, “If you forgive….if you do not forgive…” It would be impossible for the disciples to obey Jesus without audibly hearing the confessions of men and women, boys and girls.
2 Corinthians 5:17-20 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
Now this verse can be interpreted in a Protestant way to mean salvation by the preaching of the Gospel. However, we see this verse as further proof for the sacrament of reconciliation/confession. Also, James points out that
James 5:13-16 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
The Greek word for elders is presbuterous. This is the Greek etymological root from which we get our English word for priest. So, James is saying to call the priests to pray for healing both physical and spiritual. Why would James specify the calling of the elders/priests for those who are sick if they had no more authority than the average Christian?
Filed under: Confession |