Recently, at one of our bible studies, we were discussing the Pharisees during the time of Jesus.
How could they be so out of touch with who Jesus is? As the discussion continued, people were wondering how they would respond if they were living back then and witnessed the signs and wonders our Lord performed. I felt that we do not really need to think about what it was like then because we are called right here and now.
How many people today display the lack of faith today in following the Catholic Church? How many people would think, “Well, if I was living back then I would have been a follower of Christ. Like St. Peter, we would pledge our allegiance to the Lord, but how many of us would stand by the Lord when the first insults are fired?
How many of us will stand fast for the Lord when they mock you and spit on you? How many of us are willing to stand with the Lord when they threaten you with death? How many of us are willing to forsake our Lord for a smile and a handshake? If people 400 years from now could look back on our generation, would they wonder how we could have been so blind as the Pharisee of yesterday?
Judas sold Jesus out for 30 pieces of silver, how much did it take for us to leave the Church? Who is responsible when we choose to forsake the faith of the Apostles? We can look back and judge the Pharisee of their blindness, but are we that much different today? In a world where 42,000 denominations are challenging us to join them in rebellion.
If you are a faithful Catholic, probably you might have been strong enough to follow Christ and stand with him through the trial, however, how many of us have abandoned Jesus for another Bride?
We are in the time of apostasy, we are called to reach out and bring them home. It says in James 5:19-20, “My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring them back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins”.
When you go to Confession, the Lord takes those sins you confess and throws them into the sea of forgetfulness and remembers them no more. You are given a judgement in the Confessional, a judgement of mercy.
The Confessional is the Mercy Seat of God! The Lord gave to St. Faustina the revelation of Divine Mercy. Jesus says the hardest worst sinner is most deserving for this mercy as Jesus does not wish the death of the sinner, but their true repentance.
I have often been asked the question, “Why do Catholics need to go to a priest instead of Jesus, since He is the Mediator between God and man.” We go to confession in obedience to Jesus’ command that gave this authority to his apostles.
This transfer of authority came after His resurrection and is recorded as follows:
“on the evening of that first day of the week, even though the disciples hadlocked the doors of the place where they were for fear of the Jews…Jesus came and stood before them ‘Peace be with you,’ he said. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. At the sight of the Lord, the Disciples rejoiced. ‘Peace be with you,’ he said again. ‘As the Father has sent me so I send you.’… He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
The Council of Trent (1556) defined the power to forgive sins in verse 23 as the same power exercised in the Sacrament of Penance. This power could have only reached our present age through Apostolic Succession where the Apostles ordained successors and broadened the faith throughout the world.
St. Paul gives special consideration to this Sacrament with the intent to instruct his listeners its importance.
He states, “So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this IS fromGod, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us THE MINISTRYOF RECONCILIATION, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting TO US the message of reconciliation. So WE ARE AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST, as if GOD WERE APPEALING THROUGH US. We implore you on BEHALF OF CHRIST, BE RECONCILED TO GOD ( 2 COR 5Vs 17-20).
St. Paul then invites us, “Working together, then, WE APPEAL TO YOU NOT TO RECEIVE THE GRACE OF GOD IN VAIN”. Some thoughts; from the Webster’s New World Dictionary, AMBASSADOR is:
1. The highest-ranking diplomatic representative appointed by one country or government…(when you recognize the Church as the Kingdom of God on earth, this definition easily fits the mark).
2. A special representative, is one on a special diplomatic mission.
3. An official agent with a special mission ( Christ appointed his Apostles to carryout this “special mission”). BEHALF is defined as, “ME, in phrase on (mi)behalf, on (my side). I speak in his behalf, on behalf of speaking for;representing (This is exactly what the priest does)!
This Sacramental authority Jesus gives his Apostles should not be confused with the moral obligation to forgive seventy times seven.
In the great sacrament, Jesus chooses to forgive in the action of his Ministers. Just as God may heal someone through a minister, he established the priesthood for the purpose of spiritual healing.
The Council of Constantinople (553) declared that John 20:22 meant that the spirit was truly given and the breathing on the disciples was not merely symbolic. This action recalls Genesis 2:7 where God breathed life into Adam and gave him the natural spirit of life force.
St. John announces that the life-source for supernatural life is given, which is the seal of the Holy Spirit.
The Confessional, then, is not of man-made origin, but is a God-breathed action of the Holy Spirit. It has come down the ages through the Church that Jesus built.
When you go to Confession to the local priest, a bishop ordained him. The bishop himself was ordained by a previous bishop and the transfer of authority can be traced all the way back to the Apostles.
People who do not understand the Church often challenge its concepts by stating that a given teaching was invented on such and such a date.
The ‘invention’ dates, however, usually coincide with councils that met for the purpose of clarifying any teaching that was being misunderstood or challenged in some way.
In the case of Confession, some try to say that the Catholic Church invented the teaching of Confession in the 4th century. But, it preceded the 4th and earlier centuries, and was part of what Jesus commands when he states in the gospel of Matthew:
“Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you.” The apostles are to teach the world not merely one doctrine, such as the doctrine of Resurrection, but all doctrines pronounced by Jesus.
In deed, His historical teaching and the entire gospel the Catholic Church has safeguarded message. Jesus promised the Catholic Church that the gates of hell would not prevail against it, that he would be with us until the end of the age, and that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son and remains with us until Jesus returns.
His Church has His promise, His protection, and His seal. It is up to each person to be faithful or fall. We call this free will. In the meantime, Jesus truly waits for us in the Sacrament of Confession.
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