Dear Fr. Rick, If God is everywhere, then God is also in my bedroom. Why can’t I just go into my bedroom and ask God to forgive my sins there? Why do I have to go to a priest? W. from Toronto
Dear W., Thanks for raising this question. I remember struggling with the same question myself. As always, the answers can be found in Jesus Christ.
All that good stuff Jesus brought into the world was meant to continue on even after His ascension into heaven. Jesus was mercy incarnate (mercy in the flesh). He stepped into a world that had a very rigid and limited understanding of forgiveness and He went around forgiving everybody! Anyone whose heart was even the slightest bit open, anyone who turned to him in need, anyone who repented, was forgiven.
It must have been so wonderful for those privileged people that He touched to hear such words right from the mouth of Jesus: “You are forgiven, your sins and mistakes are completely wiped away.” So powerful, coming from the mouth of another person who is God on earth!
But Jesus did not want forgiveness to be only for the three years that He did public ministry. He wanted the experience to continue. So He chose twelve apostles, He breathed the Holy Spirit upon them, and said to them,“Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven.” In doing that, Jesus began the Sacramental priesthood and was keeping forgiveness alive and enfleshed in our world even after his earthly ministry was completed.
Being alone in our bedroom, talking to God is a great thing and maybe even asking forgiveness at those moments can be helpful, but I bet that such a prayer experience can at best offer us only a vague, intangible feeling of having been forgiven. But when we hear the words of forgiveness spoken through the mouth of a Catholic priest, there is no room for doubt. We are fully forgiven and we can feel it from the top of our heads to the tips of our toes! Catholic priests have been given the authority to continue using Jesus’ words of mercy in our world today and so letting Jesus speak to us through them can soften our hearts and change our lives.
Speaking for myself, I love going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation! I love hearing the priest tell me, beyond a doubt (after having heard all my garbage) that God has totally, completely forgiven me of my sins. Jesus knew that human beings would need to hear that message again and again. So He gave us the gift of the priesthood and this amazing, freeing Sacrament.
And often Jesus will take advantage of having our full attention in the Sacrament of Reconciliation to add even more words through the mouth of his priest. Sometimes we get a piece of guidance, direction, insight, maybe even words of prophecy from the priest who is simply a screen through which Jesus is speaking. That’s a pretty sweet deal! And I think it’s worth leaving our bedroom to seek it out.
I’m so happy you are raising questions like this. Keep it up! We will ask the Holy Spirit to help and search for the truth together. God bless you!