Jennifer calls in to the show and asks Father Dave, “How do I explain to my non-Catholic family members that Confession is important?” She explains that her son is preparing for his first Reconciliation, but her in-laws aren’t Catholic, and she wants to explain to her family why we believe in the importance of this sacrament. Jennifer shares that she believes Confession is important because it holds us accountable.
Father Dave affirms Jennifer’s idea that Confession keeps us accountable, and asks, if there is no structure like confession, what would motivate us to confess our sins? “Theologically what we believe about sin is that all sin is communal sin. There is no such thing as private sin.”
Father Dave explains that in St. Paul’s theology of the mystical body of Christ, we are all connected because we are all one body. Therefore, when we sin, our sin is not just between us and God, but it affects everyone in the Christian family. Because of this, Father Dave says that we do need to ask God for forgiveness, but we also need to say, “I’m sorry,” to the community: “In the early centuries of Christianity, people would literally stand up in the gathered assembly on the Lord’s day and admit ways in which they had sinned against the community.” Father Dave points out that since we don’t use this practice anymore, now the priest not only represents God but represents the human community as well.
Sacraments are the way in which we tangibly experience God’s grace. “The thing I hear as a priest all the time is that we as humans struggle, not with what we have done wrong, but one of the more difficult parts of the whole sin/forgiveness relationship with God, is believing that God really truly has forgiven us of our sins,” Father Dave says. “Hearing the absolution prayer, ‘I absolve you of your sins,’ is a much more human tangible way to experience God’s forgiveness.” Original Air 2-06-18
Photo credit: Auxiliary Bishop Peter J. Byrne of New York blesses a woman after hearing her confession at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)