|The Confession by Pietro Longhi (Photo Credit: Wikipedia).
Do you want to be a saint? I do. I mean that I want to end up in heaven with God and all the others He created who are one with Him in charity. Becoming a saint is impossible, though, if we depend on ourselves. Moreover, we must leave this world a saint in order to be one in the next. Fortunately, nothing is impossible to God and His magnanimous love for each of His creatures. All we have to do is cooperate with Him.
At the Last Supper Jesus consecrated all the apostles as priests. In that event He set them apart so that they were no longer men like other men, but were instead to stand in His place in a special way. That’s why we describe the priest as an alter Christus – another Christ.
Just hours after instituting the sacrament of the sacred priesthood Jesus was arrested, tried, and crucified thanks to the help of Judas. His remaining apostles, except for St. John, ran off and hid themselves behind locked doors. Confusion, despair, grief and shame must have enveloped the souls of these newly ordained priests. But inside of three days Jesus rose from the dead and came to where ten of the remaining eleven, including St. John, had gathered. He didn’t knock. He just came right through those doors as if they weren’t even there.
John 20:19-23 is a passage I love for many reasons, but especially because it tells of the institution behind those locked doors of the sacrament of Penance (Reconciliation), one of the ways we cooperate with God’s work in making us saints.
"Now when it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them: Peace be to you. And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad [I think this is an understatement. They must have been jumping up and down and hollering with joy], when they saw the Lord. He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained."
And so it was that Jesus gave the apostles the power through the Spirit of Charity to stand in His place and forgive our sins, bringing us peace of heart. Another aspect of the sacred priesthood where the priest acts as alter Christus.
This is why I look at every confession as an appointment with Jesus. Jesus is sitting behind the screen focusing His full attention on me and what I’m saying. He hears not only the words but the language of the heart. He gives the priest the grace to offer me useful guidance for amending my life just as He gives me the grace to confess what I’ve done that offended Him.
Read the rest at Barb's blog Suffering with Joy.