Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Private Confession a channel of God’s grace
By Fr. Ron Baird
The sacrament of Penance, called the Reconciliation of a Penitent (on Page 447 in the Book of Common Prayer) is undoubtedly one of the least used sacraments available to Anglicans. Many rumors and innuendoes have circulated in our Church about this sacrament, none of which have been good. For some it invokes memories of old Roman Catholicism and forced confessions. Others ask, “Why do I need a priest to confess my sins? Why can’t I confess directly to God?”
What I hope to do here is not to coerce you into going to confession. Rather, I hope to help you see private confession as a channel of God’s grace. I hope you will see if for what it is — a sacrament for you.
It is obvious that we not only can, but should, confess our sins directly to God on a regular basis. I encourage and practice daily confession of sin to God, as well as the general confession we use on Sundays. I have made private confession because I have discovered in it the incredible power of reconciliation to God. Often, during Lent, I take the time (or make it) to examine my life; to look closely at the direction in which it is heading. Am I being obedient to God’s call in my life? Am I even asking what it is? What things have I done contrary to that call?
The point of confession is not to berate yourself in front of another person. It is to look at your life and your obedience or disobedience to God in order to be restored to newness of life in him and to be empowered to turn away from sin, which leads you away from God in disobedience. That is the power of the sacrament and is the reason why you “need a priest.” The seal of the confessional is absolute. A priest may not mention your confession to anyone else or even to you ever again. In fact, the priest is best served by trying to forget it altogether once it is finished. This is because the priest’s role in the confession is to be a mediator of the sacrament, not to sit in judgment of the penitent.
Very few of us take the time to actually confess our sins. We are good at acknowledging that we are sinners, but we rarely get specific about what our sins are, not only with others, but with ourselves. The sacrament provides us the opportunity to really discover our own sinfulness and the incredible power of God’s love and forgiveness in our lives. Sometimes we may need to avail ourselves of the sacrament because the burden of guilt is too great to bear. But we also can discover the power of God by making an appointment to make our confession on a regular (perhaps yearly) basis.
Holy Week — this year April 9-15 — is an especially appropriate time to make a private confession. If you would like to make a sacramental confession during Lent, please contact Fr. Ron Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-548-5112, or see one of our priest associates.