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The New Testament And The Sacrament Of Confession

June 3, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 31

In the previous article we have seen how the people of the Old Testament confessed their sins, and how Sacred Scripture admonished them to do so. But to whom did they confess their sins? To the next-door neighbor, the nearest street vendor or to the town motel owner? Not at all. They confessed their sins to the priests, according to the law of Moses.
See how Jesus Himself kept the Law of Moses, as we read in the Gospel of St. Luke (17:11-15):
“And it came to pass, as He was going to Jerusalem, He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as He entered into a certain town, there met Him ten men that were lepers, who stood afar off; And lifted up their voice, saying: Jesus, master, have mercy on us. Whom when He saw, he said: Go, show yourselves to the priests. And it came to pass, as they went, they were made clean. And one of them, when he saw that he was made clean, went back, with a loud voice glorifying God.”
Jesus, the Son of God, had the power to forgive sins and to cleanse leprosy, which was a prefigure of sin. What leprosy does to the body, sin does to the soul. But why did He send the ex-lepers to show themselves to the priests?
It was the Law of Moses!
In Lev. 13, the whole chapter is dedicated to the priests’ declaration of cleanliness or uncleanliness of a man who appeared to be a leper.
“And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: The man in whose skin or flesh shalt arise a different color or a blister, or as it were something shining, that is, the stroke of the leprosy, shall be brought to Aaron the priest, or any one of his sons. And…upon his judgment, he shall be separated [or] he shall declare him clean.
“If the stroke of the leprosy be in a man, he shall be brought to the priest, and he shall view him . . . and shall judge that the leprosy which he has is very clean: because it is all turned into whiteness, and therefore the man shall be clean.
“But when the live flesh shall appear in him, then by the judgment of the priest he shall be defiled, and shall be reckoned among the unclean.”
The priest was the doctor who judged the man’s condition, and God gave detailed instructions about how to judge the condition. Sin was to the soul as leprosy is to the body.
Yes, sin is the leprosy of the soul. The man who was cleansed of leprosy had to show himself to the priest of the Old Testament. Jesus also said: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). So, the man who repents of his sin “goes to show himself to the priest” of the New Testament.
The declaration of being clean of leprosy in the Old Testament was the perfect prefigure of the absolution of sins in Confession in the New Testament.
More: St. John the Baptist followed the same procedure in the New Testament:
Matt. 3:5-6: “Then went out to him Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the country about Jordan: And were baptized by him (John the Baptist) in the Jordan, confessing their sins.”
Acts 19:18: “And many of them that believed, came [to the apostles] confessing and declaring their deeds.”
1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity.”
James 5:14: “Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith shall save the sick man: and the Lord shall raise him up: and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him.”
And in verse 16: “Confess therefore your sins one to another: and pray one for another, that you may be saved. For the continual prayer of a just man avails much.”
“Confess therefore your sins one to another”: Since to confess to persons who have no power to forgive sins would be useless, we are called to confess our sins to those who can forgive them, that is, to the priests of the Church. They have the power to forgive and, as all the previous quotations attest, we must confess to men whom God has appointed, and who, by their Ordination and jurisdiction, have received the power of remitting sins in His name.

The Way Of Light

The Early Christians kept the same faith and procedure. I will quote only a few of those who wrote prior to the formation of the Bible as we know it today, which happened in AD 397 at the Council of Carthage.
St. John Chrysostom (386), Treatise on the Priesthood:
“[Men] are entrusted with the dispensations of the things of Heaven! Priests have received a power which God has given neither to Angels nor to Archangels. It was said to them, ‘Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.’ What greater power is there than this? The Father has given all the judgment to the Son. And now I see the Son placing all this power in the hands of men.”
St. Pacian of Barcelona (c. 385) Letters to the Novationist Symphronian:
“You say that it is God alone who pardons the penitent. True enough. But it is likewise true that He does it through His priests, who exercise His power. What else can it mean when He says to His Apostles, ‘Whatever you shall bind on Earth shall be bound in Heaven; and whatever you shall loose on Earth shall be loosed in Heaven’?. . .
“If He were permitting this to the Apostles alone, He would likewise be permitting them alone to baptize, them alone to confer the Holy Spirit, them alone to cleanse the pagans of their sins. For all these things were commissioned not to others but to the Apostles.”
St. Basil the Great (370) Rules Briefly Treated:
“It is necessary to confess our sins to those to whom the dispensation of God’s mysteries is entrusted. . . . It is written in the Gospel that they confessed their sins to John the Baptist (Matt. 3:6). But in the Acts, they confessed to the Apostles (19:18).”
The Didache (140):
“Confess your offenses in Church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of Life. . . . On the Lord’s Day gather together, break bread and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure.”
St. Clement (80), Letter to the Corinthians:
“It is good for a man to confess his failings rather than to harden his heart.”
Letter of Barnabas (c. 75):
“You shall confess your sins. You shall not go up to pray in the consciousness of having done evil. This is the way of light.”
Next article: Understanding the Sacrament of Confession.

+ + +

(Raymond de Souza, KM, is a Knight of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta; a delegate for International Missions for Human Life International [HLI]; and an EWTN program host. Website: www.RaymonddeSouza.com.)

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