CONFESSION: CELEBRATING RECONCILIATION
The Lord, on his first appearance to the Apostles after his resurrection breathed on them and Said “receive the HOLY SPIRIT, if you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained”. (John 20:22-23) And later on:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you, and look I am with you always; yes, to the end of time” (Matthew 28:18-20)
He says “make disciples” “baptise them”, which in other words means “minister salvation unto them”.
These words of Christ point to forgiveness in two sacraments: Baptism in the latter and Confession in the former. The words “if you retain anyone’s sin” mean a discretionary act, a judgrment whether or not to forgive a sin they are made aware of by a penitent. This isn’t the same as Baptizing since there’s not judgment made in it; they simply receive one who wishes to join the fold and baptize them in the name of the Trinity.
WHAT ARE PEOPLE AFRAID OF?
Many people are scared of the idea of man forgiving sins even in the name of Christ and his Church. To them, it means impersonating, or presumptuously claiming divine Authority; an authority way above the grasp of Man. However, basic Christian belief totally goes against such fear. At baptism, one receives Salvation, holistic restoration of Spiritual wellness, of communion with God and community, of forgiveness of actual and original sin.
Without the Authority of Jesus, no one could be baptised; if he didn’t extend this authority to man, we would not be able to receive baptism; the power to forgive comes from the Father through Jesus, and the ability for one to baptise (in the name of Christ) comes from Jesus’ ability to extend this authority to every age. When you say “I baptise you” it means “I redeem you, in the name of Christ” which really does not mean “by my power I redeem you” but more like “by the Lord’s power/command, He saves you through my service”.
Baptism remains, objectively speaking, a greater miracle than the Sacrament of Confession, at baptism one is set free from all the faults of his entire life, from original sin, and all the punishments due to his personal sins are entirely wiped off. He becomes as clean as an Angel, a Spiritual Wonder. This miracle is wrought by Christ through the ministry of men. Why then must we be scared of the idea of confession when it is the same Christ who said to the same Apostles “if you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained”, (John 20:22-23) and by virtue of Apostolic Succession has blessed his Church with this same Authority in our day (just as he has blessed us with the Baptismal Power today). Confession does less than Baptism (This is only for the purpose of analogy); confession forgives the guilt of sins committed, but removes only a part of their temporal punishment (which is the effect of sins; the disorder caused by sins committed; that undue attachment to created things over God. Which attachments are treated here or in purgatory)
Christ, in sending the Holy Spirit, has given man the power to act in his name, to perform divine actions: to heal the sick, raise the dead and proclaim the Kingdom of God on earth. These were characteristic of Jesus’ ministry. The idea behind the institution of a Church is to CONTINUE THIS MINISTRY, THE SAME MINISTRY OF JESUS, UNTIL HE COMES AGAIN, to proclaim his divinity, his saving help to all men; by actually reflecting this divinity in the work of sanctification performed by the Church. It means extending a hand of his support, a caress of his love, a kiss of his peace, a rebuke when we linger in sin and the words of his forgiveness when we sincerely come to him. It means working as MEMBERS OF HIS BODY, being his hands, his eyes, his feet, his heart beating in the world; it means being filled with the same anointing with which the Father anointed him, and pouring fourth on the earth the overflow of his divine love. It means being his hands that labours, his feet that races to help others, his heart that beats for all men, and his mouth that speaks words of hope, love and forgiveness.
When the Lord revealed the coming of a Messiah, the people of Israel accepted this offer and lived joyfully in hope, without actually knowing how he had chosen to come; without understanding the density of the incarnation. Upon his coming to the world, he was unrecognised by many, simply because men are scared to accept the divine generosity of God to collaborate with man. Men are always dazzled by the illuminating proposals of God to them; of collaboration and covenantal unity. Christ had a lot of work to do, of convincing the people he actually is the Saviour; he is not just a prophet but the Only-Begotten Son of God; He is himself God.
Today we are grateful that God has come to dwell with us, and we can call him “Emmanuel” however we remain scared of pondering the real implication of this; we are happy about his gifts, but too scared to consider the implication of even his commands to us; his summons to work with him. To collaborate with us, God took our nature and became like us, to collaborate with him, God lifts us to become divine; through the Holy Spirit acting in the Laying on of the Apostles’ (Bishops’) hands, raising in Holy Orders those upon whose shoulders are laid heavier burdens and greater privilege to work in the name of Christ; to forgive sins, to bring hope and to minister salvation to all men.