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The Transformative Power of Confession

Updated: Apr 11, 2022

He who knows how to forgive prepares for himself many graces from God. As often as I look upon the cross, so often will I forgive with all my heart. (390) --St. Faustina

Forgiveness can be one of the most difficult calls to us in our faith but also one of the most vital for our spiritual health.

In scripture, Jesus speaks often about the importance of forgiveness. In Matthew 6:14 Jesus says, “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you,” and when Peter asked Jesus how often it is necessary to forgive, Jesus replied, “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Mt 18:22). The number seven in biblical contexts represents completion or perfection. We are supposed to forgive without limit or condition, letting our acts of forgiveness be without number just as Jesus has no limit or condition when he forgives. In the Lord’s prayer, the prayer Jesus himself gives to us, we say: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Even upon his lips as he died on the cross were the words: “Forgive them father,” (Luke 23:34) regarding those who were brutally torturing and spitting lies and hatred over him.

There are so many biblical references to forgiveness, and yet, we often find it so very hard to forgive. At the times when others have deeply wounded us or when we cannot find it in ourselves to forgive ourselves, we must remember that forgiveness is not a feeling, but a choice to release the other or ourselves to God. We may still hold feelings of anger or distrust toward ourselves or the person who has hurt us, and forgiveness does not mean that the wrong does not matter, but despite those feelings, we make the choice to forgive by handing over this offense to the Lord, asking him to place it at the foot of the cross and to ease our burden of carrying its weight.

The importance and power of forgiveness are evidenced in that Christ has given us a sacrament solely dedicated to this purpose. Jesus commands his apostles, who would later become his first priests, “For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven; for those whose sins you retain, they are retained” (John 20:22). Jesus gives them the authority to forgive sins in his name; thus, we must remember that within the sacrament of confession, it is not the priest who forgives, but the Lord, working through the ministry of the priest to reconcile us back to him. I encourage you, the next time the priest raises his hand over you to offer the words of absolution, close your eyes and imagine that the hand belongs to Jesus saying, “Go in peace, your sins are forgiven.”

Furthermore, the Catechism tells us that the sacrament of confession is the first step in our act of conversion, which is a turning back to God. The Catechism states that:

Sin is before all else an offense against God, a rupture of communion with him. At the same time it damages communion with the Church. For this reason, conversion entails both God’s forgiveness and reconciliation with the Church, which are expressed and accomplished liturgically by the sacrament of Penance and reconciliation (CCC1440).

To further aid in that conversion, the Catechism states that ats of “fasting, prayer, and almsgiving express conversion to oneself, to God, and to others” (CCC 1434). These three practices might sound familiar to you as focuses for the Lenten season we are currently in.

So much more could be said on forgiveness! If you are interested in learning more about the sacrament of confession and of the transformative grace that comes from God’s mercy, see our Lenten study in the bulletin or feel free to watch the video series on Formed title: Forgiven.

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