Fr. Roy Cimagala
We need to restore the true face of confes-sion whose public image is getting very distor-ted. This is unfortunate because confession actually plays an indis-pensable role in a believer’s life. It’s where Christian life is recovered, or at least strengthened.
Of course, confession has to be understood as a doctrine of faith. One misses the truth right at the source if he considers it as just one more practice, religious but mainly social, its nature determined more by its practical aspects than by that it was instituted by Christ and taught and promoted by the Church.
This is actually our main problem these days. Many believers have a watered down attitude toward faith and religion, and of course toward the Church and the sacraments. They rely more on their reason rather than of faith to lead them in their Christian life. They believe and they follow only when they understand things and see them useful in some way. Faith is subordinated to our reason.
Again, we have to take our faith seriously and live it as consistently as possible. We don’t flaunt it when it is politically correct, and junk it when it is inconvenient. And this seriousness in our faith should also be shown in our attitude toward confession.
As sacrament, confession is not just a human institution. Though it uses human instruments, it is Christ to whom one approaches and from whom one asks and obtains forgiveness in confession.
Though it takes only a few minutes, the truth is that the whole drama of Christ assuming our sins, dying to them and rising from them, victorious over sin and death, and expressing the most exquisite version of love in his mercy for us, takes place there.
This is what happens in confession if understood and done well. We need to expand our mind and heart to accommodate this tremendous reality of confession as taught to us by our Christian faith.
If we today pride ourselves of having gone nuclear, of having covered a vast area of worldly knowledge, then we should do something similar with respect to truths of faith. We cannot remain in the kindergarten level in our appreciation and practice of confession, for example.
Of course, all parties should do their best here. The priests and the penitents should play their respective parts well. Pope Emeritus Benedict once said that confession is where that intimate and life-changing “dialogue of salvation” transpires.
Priests should realize that as confessors they lend their faculties to Christ who is the one who forgives sins. They should be truly identified with him, effectively and affectively. Thus, they—we—should be competent and truly holy, because only in this way can we dispense God’s mercy and effect inner healing in the penitents.
This is, of course, a very dynamic, never-ending effort, with its ups and downs, twists and turns. But as long as there is determined effort to be faithful to Christ, the sacrament can be done as it should be in spite of our defects and miseries.
Hearing confessions is a very privileged moment for any priest. That’s where he enters into the inmost part of a person, that part where one is supposed to face Christ to ask for the most important thing in life—God’s mercy. We can need many and endless things, but in the end what we most need is none other than God’s mercy.
Priests should do their part really well. They have to know how to be at one and the same time a father, a friend, a judge and doctor. They must know how to advise as well as to handle the many intricacies of the internal forum. Fr. Roy Cimagala is Chaplain, Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise (CITE), Talamban, Cebu City, Email: roycimagala @gmail.com.