As a man who became Catholic at 31 and found the roots of my Christian faith outside of the Catholic Church, I can assure you that like many adult converts I struggled with the notion of going to confession to a priest. It seemed a very convincing argument that we could speak directly to God and confess our sins directly to Him.
As I reflect upon today’s Gospel, I think about where I was as a Catechumen (preparing to become Catholic) and how I had to take a “leap of faith” to believe I should go to confession as a Catholic in due time. Like the Pharisees and scribes of the times, I was closed off to Jesus’ healing power because I was focused on why I shouldn’t as opposed to why I should. What I mean by this is that I focused on the man (the priest) and how he couldn’t do anything I couldn’t do. I was focused on my deep, dark secrets rather than on what the Lord wanted to do with them. I was focused on my fear rather than the freedom and mercy Jesus wanted to give me in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
At that time, and even to this day, I stop every now and again and do a “spiritual inventory” of the things I love & appreciate about being a Catholic Christian. I give thanks for the guidance, love, mercy, acceptance and the strength the Holy Church gives me by following God’s plan through the Church. These reasons I might have had, not to go to confession are so much less than what the Church teaches we receive – so I made a plan then to trust God who had led me to His Church and not to trust myself on that one.
Fast forward many years, to today: I reflect upon this as a Catholic priest who hears and absolves many through the Sacrament of Reconciliation; who believes with my whole heart, mind and soul in the healing power of Confession. It is not me who forgives, it is Jesus Christ who uses me to forgive people. When I absolve, my name isn’t in there at all. I can hardly believe that there was a time I almost made my mind up I wouldn’t go to confession – for it would have been only me who would have missed out on the most miraculous and powerful healing I’ve experienced taking place in my life! Do I believe that God can forgive sins without the help & use of priests – sure I do! Do I believe I should insist upon it – absolutely not, for the Lord my God chose for it to be this way, I trust He knows what He’s doing.