1. Mechanical Confession:
People tend to believe that confession means that anytime you confess to the priest, the sins confessed are automatically forgiven just because the priest says so. Well, this is not true. God isn’t tied to any sacrament; you must meet certain conditions before you can receive valid sacramental forgiveness. Confession isn’t mechanical, you must put your soul in it: you must be sorry and must fully confess your sins. You must also be willing to do penance and do restitution; returning all you stole or damaged – making up for your mistakes.
- Contrition: meaning that one must be really sorry for offending God who loves him. Not just about being fear of hell, but a remorse born out of love. Repentance born out of fear isn’t perfect, but still suffices.
- Confession: the penitent confesses everything to the priest, without willfully withholding any tiny detail. Once one is unwilling to confess properly, it indicates they’re not very sorry for their sins and cannot receive valid absolution.
- Satisfaction: after one has been forgiven, they have to make up for their sins. They have to do penance and restore all they have damaged by their sins. Get rid of all instruments of sins in their possessions and stay far away from anything tainted with corruption to avoid future temptations.
These conditions are necessary for receiving sacramental pardon, but one could still go see a confessor to help them discern their hearts. If you have doubts as to how you really feel about your sins, an experienced confessor would be very helpful.
2. Sentimental forgiveness:
I might not be able to explore this in detail as it presents in many Catholics, however, i hear some people like to depend on their “feelings” to be able to ‘tell’ when God has actually forgiven them or not. There are some who, even though they have all the conditions above and even more, feel they have not been forgiven. Maybe it is because they feel God couldn’t forgive them severally for the same sins, or because they’re emotionally scattered they’re looking for that “tingly” feeling and cant find it. But, in reality, God does not depend on our feelings to do stuff for us.
God loves us even when we are sinners. He loves us and his love for us can never change. When you feel remorse for your sins and are moved to confess them, know that it is by the grace and workings of the Holy Spirit. If God does not forgive us, he will not make his grace available to us for repentance.
No matter how you feel, try to prepare well for your confession, meet with the conditions above and never worry. God wants you to do your best, he doesn’t accept insincerity. He wants you to sincerely work hard, to your utmost abilities and that’s all you need. He will forgive you, he will restore you, and he will make you holy. Stop referring so much to sentiments, depends more on the mercy of God and be sure to do your best at all times.
Man is man, God is God:
Remember that no matter how much we depend on our human abilities We are unable to save ourselves. For this reason, we must always depend on God he alone is able to save us. Do you know why Jesus came to the world? It is because he wanted to save us.
We believe in him because we know that he really desires to save us, that he has power to save us, and that he will save us.
He is God and is able to forgive us no matter how fragile we are. He is able to remold us no matter how shattered we are, and he is able to beautify us no matter how ugly we’ve become. God is not simply able to make Angels out of humans, he made the most majestic of creatures out of nothing ! He is God, your feelings might never capture him, but he loves you more than even you are able to know.
Never be tired of calling unto him for mercy. Just as you are unable to hear him, see him or smell him, you are also unable to perfectly understand him. But what we can learn is he is mercy alone, and the words of a thief and our Lord should convince you. Someone who has stolen and probably killed all his life asks for pardon and the Lord responds:
“Truly i tell you, today, you shall be with me in paradise” Luke 23:43
3. The priest is a sinner and therefore cannot forgive sin:
Another thing that many Catholics deal with is doubt. While many doubt the validity of the absolution they have received, others doubt the validity of sacramental absolution in general. We have dealt with the former and will now discuss the latter.
Christ has given his priests the power to forgive sins. This power he himself received from the Father for which he is called “The Christ”, “the Anointed”.
The Lord charged his apostles to:
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” Matthew 28:19
Jesus has all the authority in heaven and on earth which includes the power to forgive sin and to speak in the name of the Father. Before he ascended to heaven he said so, and added “therefore”, which means, “because i have all the power, i am now sending you to act in my stead”. He wants his disciples to continue bringing salvation to all men, by making them his followers, baptizing them and forgiving their sins.
“When He had said this, He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.’” John 20:23
But think about it, “if you withhold anyone’s sins”, don’t you have to hear the sins to be able to judge which to forgive and which to withhold?
Do not worry yourself, God anointed Christ and gave him power to act in his stead, and Jesus did exactly the same. So he said:
“Again Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so also I am sending you.”
How did the Father send him? He anointed him (for which he is the Christ), and gave him power (the Holy Spirit is the anointing) to forgive sin. So what followed then was “he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.'”
4. Forgiveness is free, therefore can be abused
Confession is NOT a place where anyone goes to receive forgiveness for any sin, any time they choose to, with the intention of returning back to their sins afterwards. In fact the Church teaches that abuse of sacrament is a sacrilege, one of which is lying to a priest, insincere repentance; having the intention of sinning again while confessing; having a willful attachment to sin; refusing to let go of sin even while confessing. We believe that God does not forgive those who are insincere before Him, only those who meet these conditions are actually forgiven:
- Recognition of the evil of one’s sin
- Sincerely confessing them to the priest without wilfully withholding any detail.
- Being truly sorry, which precludes, the clear intention to be better, to discard all instruments of sin one possesses, and to restore what one has damaged or unjustly taken.
- To do penance and to struggle against such sins afterwards.
Those who kneel before God’s throne of mercy only to tell him lies, to “trick” forgiveness out of him only worsen their conditions, since, far from freeing them from sin, their bonds are actually made worse.