In the New Testament, Jesus Christ, physician of our souls and bodies, forgives the sins of the paralytic and restores him to bodily health. Confession, also known as the sacrament of Penance, was given to us by the same Jesus Christ, who invested authority in his Church to carry on this work of healing. So those who participate in the sacrament (a holy and visible sign of an invisible reality) obtain pardon from God’s mercy for the offences committed against him, and are at the same time reconciled with his Church.
The sacrament of Penance involves the confession of one’s sins to a Priest, and it’s from this that it has come to be known as ‘Confession’. Confessing your sins to a Priest can seem like a scary concept, but if you’re serious about following Jesus Christ, then making your Confession can be a joyous occasion, because it helps us begin again with God, wiping the slate clean. And if you’ve never made a confession before, don’t worry, because the Priest who hears your confession is a sinner who also needs God’s forgiveness, and was once in the same boat as you, having to make his first confession. And if you’re still worried, then remember that what you confess remains a secret between you, God and the Priest, who is bound by law and conscience not to reveal anything he’s heard from a penitent.
What happens in confession is quite straightforward. When you’re ready to begin, you read the words in front of you, and then at the right time recall your sins – those things you have done against God and your neighbour. After this the Priest gives you advice on how to avoid those sins, and encourages you along your Christian journey. He will also prescribe for you a ‘penance’, which is something you should do either before (or as soon as possible after) leaving Church to show you are sorry for what you have done, and that you intend to be a better Christian. He will then offer you God’s forgiveness.
Making your confession is an important aspect of the Christian life, and something which it is good to get into the habit of doing. Christians should make their confession at least once a year, and when the need arises. Whether you’re a first time penitent, or more regular, the sacrament of Penance is offered by appointment with the Vicar.