January 6, 2019
Nearly 50% of us make New Year’s resolutions, but less than 10% actually keep them. 4,000 years ago, Babylonians promised to pay their debts and return borrowed objects. Romans named January after the two-faced god Janus, who looked simultaneously into the past and future, so January 1 was logical moment to examine the past and resolve to change.
Confession is better than New Year’s resolutions. In this sacrament we examine our past, recognize how we’ve fallen short of the mark of who we are meant to be, confessour faults to God through a priest, and receive God’s grace to help us change – something the resolution statistics indicate we don’t do well on our own!
Why confess to a priest? Because Jesus forgave sins and wanted that ministry to continue through His Body, the Church. As soon as He is resurrected in the Gospel of John, he sends his apostles into the world, just as His Father had sent him. He breathes the Holy Spirit upon them and says, “whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.” (John 20:23-24). This power implies that Jesus’ delegate knows what the sins are, which indicates an oral confession of sins – or else how would the apostle know what to forgive or retain? The forgiveness comes from the Blessed Trinity, not the priest. The prayer of absolution ends, “I forgive you in the name ofthe Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. That invocation of the Trinity is not simply the sign of the cross that ends a prayer, but a statement of who, in fact, is doing the forgiving. It is a statement that the priest is the “conduit” God wishes to use to help the penitent experience His forgiveness and the grace to fulfill their resolution “to amend my life and avoid the near occasion of sin.” So why not make regular confessionyourNew Year’s Resolution?