By: John Henry
Some people think that the Catholic tradition of confessing sins to a priest is plain ridiculous! "Why should I confess my sins to a priest who is just an ordinary man?" they ask. So, let's look at what Sacred Scripture has to say about confessing sins to a priest in this multi-part article and compare it to what the Catholic Church teaches in word and practice. Let's start with a scriptural foundation: The fundamental basis for the Sacrament of Confession (or Penance or Reconciliation) is found in the Gospel of John, where Jesus visits with the apostles shortly after his Resurrection. Jesus enters the room and says, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20:22-23).
There are several reasons why this passage is significant. First, Jesus gave his apostles a mission. The word apostle, itself, means "to be sent", and here they are being sent to continue what God has begun by sending Christ into the world. Second, Jesus breathes on them! God breathing on man only occurs one other time in Sacred Scripture--and that was when God breathed into the nostrils of Adam and Eve and gives them life! Here In John's Gospel, we see Jesus breathing his continuing life upon the apostles, giving them holy orders to act in his place, with God's own authority, including the commission to forgive or retain sins!
A Sacrament is an earthly sign of a heavenly reality... a way that God is present to man in a special, unique, and physical manner.
The Priest is Just an Ordinary Man
Many opponents to the Catholic priesthood state that the priest is just an ordinary man. All priests agree that they are (1) human, and (2) do not have superhuman faculties. And so, it is true, they are ordinary men -- or are they?
"For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts." Malachi 2:7
We'll continue in an upcoming post titled: "The Catholic Church: Hospital for sinners"