As it typically the case, this retreat included a Reconciliation Service the other night, which offered the opportunity for receipt of the Sacrament.
Some of my non-Catholic friends bristle at the idea of Reconciliation. “Why do you need to confess you sins to a priest?,” they ask. “Why do you need a priest to give you absolution?”
However, as the celebrant observed during the part of the service at which people could go to one of the priests there present to confess their sins and receive absolution, the priest represents the community. We don’t confess our sins to a priest in his individual capacity. Rather we acknowledge our sinfulness to the community, represented by the priest. And, although the priest speaks the words of absolution, it is God who ultimately dispenses forgiveness for our sins, not the individual priest.
In more human terms, my response is this. For me, there is value in articulating the sins out loud. In having to find the words to speak to another person those things that weigh heavy on my heart. And, if the priest is a good confessor (and I usually have good fortune in this regard), he will have something to say – some suggestion or thought that might help in resolving or moving forward with the issue confessed.
Finally, although I don’t need the actual words from that priest to know I have God’s forgiveness, there is something about hearing the words of absolution that is always very powerful to me. I feel lighter; I feel that a weight has been lifted from me.
Do I “need” to go to Reconciliation. Probably not. But, like all sacraments, it brings joy and peace.