Since the importance of going to Confession during Lent cannot be emphasized enough, I would like to reprint my Q&A from Sept. 14, ‘08 on the sacrament and its importance.
Why should I go to Confession?
First of all, the grace that comes from the sacrament of Confession is abundant and overflowing. From the sacrament we receive actual grace, which strengthens us in our daily task of doing good and avoiding evil, and sanctifying grace, which cleanses us of all sin. That’s no small thing, being cleansed of all sin! “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isa 1:18). Praise God for that!
As for the necessity of receiving the sacrament, it is true that we can pray to God and he will forgive our venial, or lesser sins. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). But, Scripture also tells us: “There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that” (1 Jn 5:16). To cleanse us of mortal sins — sins that fling us into a state of unrighteousness and destroy the divine life within us — Jesus instituted the sacrament of Confession.
Do you remember what Jesus said to His apostles when He appeared to them after His resurrection? He said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20:22-23). This is the fulfillment of what He told them before His death, when He said, “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 18:18). We see from this that Jesus gave the apostles the power to forgive sin.
The apostles in turn passed on this power to the “elders” (presbyteros or “priests”) that they ordained to take their place in the various churches. We know that these elders received the power to forgive sin because James, in his New Testament letter, advised his audience to call upon the elders if someone fell ill so that they may anoint the sick person with oil, and “if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (Jas 5:14-15). Your parish priest received this power in his ordination.
Do you know what this means? Waiting in that confessional is the power to set you right with God again. There is simply no reason why we should not be lined up around the block, waiting to approach God through the sacrament of Confession and receive His cleansing grace. All of us need this! “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” (1 Jn 1:8). We are all sinners in need of God’s help, and we cannot do what is good on our own.
If you have not been to Confession in a while, consider this your invitation. And have no fear! Christ is there in the sacrament not to punish you or to fill you with shame, but to heal you and set you on the path that leads to the joy of Easter!