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The Sacrament Of Confession… Confession In The New Testament

September 9, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 3

(Editor’s Note: Last week’s column by Raymond de Souza should have been titled “Confession in the New Testament,” and it was part two, not part one, of de Souza’s series on “The Sacrament of Confession.” Below is part three.)

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We all know that at the Last Supper, Jesus gave to His apostles the power to consecrate bread and wine into His Flesh and Blood. The whole chapter 6 of St. John’s Gospel proves ad nauseam that He meant it literally, not symbolically. But something that is often overlooked is the fact that, after the Resurrection, Jesus gave the apostles three very specific powers:
To forgive sins; to preach His doctrine to the world in His name; to baptize the converts who believed.
John 20:20: “Receive ye the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”
Matt. 28:18-20: “All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.”
In order to escape the evidence of the teaching, some non-Catholics say that “the power to forgive sins was given to the apostles alone, and to nobody else.”
Is that so? Therefore, after the death of the apostles, nobody had the power to forgive sins, to preach in Jesus’ Name or to baptize. . . . .Does it make sense?
Of course not. I insist that this point be made very clear: If the power to forgive sins was given to the apostles only, and to nobody else, they were not able to pass it on to others. If so, then the power to preach everything taught by Jesus and the power to baptize the converts were also given to the apostles only, and nobody else since their deaths could preach or baptize. All three powers were given after the Resurrection.
But it is plain nonsense to reduce the power to the apostles alone. First of all, the Bible does not say that. Secondly, either the three powers were given to be passed on, or nobody could preach or baptize or absolve sins. You can’t have it both ways.
But, they still insist, to have one’s sins forgiven, it is necessary to confess them? Why can’t I confess to God directly, or to a tree?
Well, while we leave out the possibility of the tree absolving you from your sins, let us see what Sacred Scripture says about the necessity of confessing one’s sins in order to obtain forgiveness.
Of course, I mean that first, one has to admit that one has sinned. That is the first step. The second step is that we are called by God to confess to someone else, who has the power to do something about it.
First of all, we must remember that Jesus told us clearly: “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). And St. John the Baptist started his mission with preaching, baptizing, and hearing Confessions, as a prefigure of the powers that Jesus would give to the apostles some three years later.
“Then went out to him [John the Baptist] Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the country about Jordan: And were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins” (Matt. 3:5-6). It is evident that John added the confessing of sins to baptizing and preaching.
After Pentecost, the people confessed their sins to the apostles who baptized them: “And many of them that believed, came confessing and declaring their deeds” (Acts 19:18).
St. John the beloved apostle taught: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity” (Matt. 5:17).
James 4:14-16: “Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the church, and let them pray over him.”
James 5:15: “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. Confess therefore your sins one to another: and pray one for another, that you may be saved.”
This was the faith of the Early Christians, which they learned from the apostles. John Henry Newman wrote once that “to know history is to cease to be a Protestant.”
The conversion of Dr. Peter Kreeft from Calvinism to Roman Catholicism is a remarkable example of this truth. While he was in college, he attended a lecture by a Calvinist professor who argued that Roman Catholics had got it wrong about the Reformation. The Reformers did not make a new church; they simply cleansed the old one of the additions that had been introduced by Catholics over the centuries.
So, it was something like a boat that is brought to the port after a long trip. Lots of barnacles had adhered to it, and all that the people at the port did was to scrap them off the boat. That was what Luther and Calvin did: They just removed the additions and accretions that Roman Catholicism had produced, ands restored the Christian faith to its pristine simplicity.
Then Dr. Kreeft asked the professor if the Early Christians were just like the Reformed churches today. He replied, “Yes, of course. They were Protestants.” Then a second question: “So if I could get inside a time machine, and go back to the time of the Early Christians, wouldn’t I be at home with them?”
“Of course,” said the professor. “They were like us.”
Dr. Kreeft then asked: “But if a Roman Catholic got into the same machine and went back in time to the Early Christians, he would be totally out of place, right?”
Again, the professor agreed. Then Dr. Kreeft decided to study the writings of the Early Christians to know more about the original Protestant religion. He read them, and became Roman Catholic!
He did so because the Early Christians were Catholic, not Protestant. Protestantism was invented by Martin Luther more than one thousand years after the Early Christians lived and professed their faith.

Regarding Penance

Let us finish this article with just one example of the faith of the Early Christians, how they understood the Bible and the Apostolic Tradition.
In the next article I will continue to quote from them, but only from the writings prior to the Council of Carthage (AD 397), because it was in that council that the Catholic Church defined with infallible precision the books of the New Testament, and purged those that were not inspired — over a thousand years before Luther.
St. Leo I (AD 459): Letter to the Bishops of Campania, Samnium, and Picenum: “With regards to penance, certainly what is required of the faithful is not [a public Confession] since it is sufficient that the guilt of consciences be indicated to priests alone in a secret Confession.”

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(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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