Confession


Ministries

What's the difference between Confession and Reconciliation?

Annual Retreat 2007
How to do a Good Confession Part 1
Annual Retreat 2007
How to do a Good Confession Part 2

Confession, one aspect of the Sacrament of Reconciliation which used to receive the greatest emphasis, is now seen as just one step in the total process.

Confession of sin can only be sincere if it is preceded by the process of conversion. It is actually the external expression of the interior transformation that conversion has brought about in us. It is a much less significant aspect of the sacrament than we made it out to be in the past.

This does not mean that confession is unimportant-only that it is not the essence of the sacrament. Look at the parable of the Prodigal Son. The father, seeing his son in the distance, runs out to meet him with an embrace and a kiss. Through one loving gesture, the father forgives the son-and the son hasn't even made his confession yet! When he does, it seems the father hardly listens. The confession is not the most important thing here; the important thing is that his son has returned. The son need not beg for forgiveness, he has been forgiven. This is the glorious Good News: God's forgiveness, like God's love, doesn't stop. In this parable, Jesus reveals to us a loving God who simply cannot not forgive!

Of course the new Rite does concern itself with the confession of sins. But one's sinfulness is not always the same as one's sins. And, as a sacrament of healing, Reconciliation addresses the disease (sinfulness) rather than the symptoms (sins). So, the sacrament calls us to more than prepared speeches or lists of sins. We are challenged to search deep into our heart of hearts to discover the struggles, value conflicts and ambiguities (the disease) which cause the sinful acts (the symptoms) to appear. Celebration is a word we haven't often associated with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. But in Jesus' parable, it is obviously important and imperative. "Quick!" says the father. "Let us celebrate." And why? Because a sinner has converted, repented, confessed and returned. Why do Catholics confess their sins to a priest?

Out of his great love, Jesus instituted this sacrament through which a sinner who is sorry receives pardon and peace and is restored to the fullness of grace with God. Confession is a very intimate experience. Even in a communal reconciliation service that you might attend during Advent, Lent or a retreat, individual confessions are private. The Catholic Church maintains, however, that there is also a social aspect to sin. Sin not only affects our relationship with God, sin also alienates us from other people and the Church. In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Jesus provides us with a way of being reconciled to God and to those we've hurt, and to be strengthened in our connection to God's entire family. This is more than symbolic; it is spiritual reality expressed through ritual. Human beings need rituals and ceremonies to celebrate the important moments in life.

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