Sacred Scripture speaks to us of reconciliation, inviting us to make every effort to attain it: "We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled with God" (2 Cor. 5:20). But Scripture also tells us that reconciliation is above all a merciful gift of God for humanity. the history of salvation is the wonderful history of reconciliation of humanity with God the Father in the blood and cross of His Son. By this reconciliation there comes into being a new family of those who have been reconciled. Reconciliation therefore requires liberation from every kind of sin (Reconciliation and Penance 4).
Christ entrusted to His Church through the grace of the Holy Spirit the sacrament of Reconciliation to forgive sins. "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." After saying this, Christ breathed on His Apostles and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven. Those you retain are retained." (John 20:21). With these words Our Lord gave to the Apostles and their successors (Bishops and Priests) the power to forgive in His name, just as He gave them the power to celebrate the Holy Eucharist when He said, "Do this in remembrance of me." Let us remember that Priests, by the anointing of the Holy Spirit which they receive at their ordination, are sealed with a spiritual and indelible character by which the authority of Christ is stamped on them. This enables them to act in His name. The vocation to the ordained priesthood shows us the "wonderful exchange" between God and man. The human creature gives Christ his humanity - his voice, his hands, his vision - so that Christ may use them as instruments of salvation. This extraordinary mission of priests is summed up in the famous words of St. Paul: "We are ambassadors for Christ. God makes His appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20).
The sacrament of Reconciliation is a special, personal conversation of a human person with Christ who forgives. Priests, united and identified with Christ as Ministers of Reconciliation, perform a most sublime function. After the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, such dignity requires on the part of the priest a holiness of life, special human and theological preparation, and a great sense of responsibility. The Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, in his Letter to Priests on Holy Thursday 2002, speaks at length on the particular qualities and commitments required for this sublime mission: "We know that we are called to be agents of grace which comes, not from us, but from on high, and works by its own inner power. In other words - and this is a great responsibility - God counts on us in our availability and fidelity in order to work His wonders in human hearts."
No doubt the priest, even though endowed with such great dignity, remains a human being, with all the frailties of human nature and the possibility of committing sins. But he does not have the power to forgive his own sins. He has to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation from another priest. The same holds for the Pope, Cardinals, and Bishops.
Let us always remember, dear brothers and sisters, that it is Jesus Christ Himself, the source of every grace and charism, who in the most solemn way, on the evening of the day of Resurrection, affirms the indispensable place of the sacrament of Reconciliation for the life of grace (John 20:22). For this reason, it is incredibly ridiculous to hear some Christians saying that Confession is an invention of priests!
Next: Our Confession
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