Joe gets into the Box

Lent – a good time to go to Confession!

“Okay,” said Joe, “I was reading the book that you gave me, and it says that if I want to live a good life, I have to first of all have my sins forgiven.  What is that about?”  “Well,” I said, stirring my cappuccino, “to have your sins forgiven, you have to go to Confession.” 

“Now, hold on a second,” said Joe, “don’t tell me that I have to tell my sins to some dressed up man in a box to have them forgiven!  That’s crazy!”  I took a deep breath under the cover of drinking my coffee.  “Well Joe,” I said, “what is a sin?”  “I suppose it is when you do something wrong,” he said.  “A sin,” I replied “is an offence against Almighty God.  When we offend against His Law, which is written in our hearts, we commit a sin.  And tell me Joe, if you offend somebody, who can forgive you except the person whom you offend?”

 “That’s the whole point,” said Joe, “you don’t offend that priest in the box.  So why should you ask him for forgiveness?”  “I’ll tell you why,” I said, “because that is the way that God decided that it would be!”  “Oh yeah, of course, that’s very handy.  All you Catholics say is that’s the way God decided that it should be.  What really happened is that you’ve been tricked all these years, believing every word that those priests tell you.  If he told you tomorrow that you had to pray in Greek, you’d go along with it!” 

I kept silence for a few seconds and then I fumbled in my pocket and took out the small New Testament that I carry around.  All the while Joe was looking alternately pleased with himself then slightly concerned as he wondered what I was doing.  At last I found the passage I was looking for and read it aloud.  “He breathed on the apostles; 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.”  (Jn. 20, 23)  

It was Joe’s turn to be quiet.  Then he said: “Alright, but that doesn’t mean that you have to tell the priest your sins, does it?”  “If you don’t tell the priest your sins, how else does he know whether to forgive or retain them?  That is what Our Lord is saying – the priest has to make a judgment on whether or not we are ready to have our sins forgiven.”  “But is that not very difficult – to have to tell even your secret sins to someone else?”  “It is and it isn’t,” I said, “mortal sin is like a poison inside you, destroying you, when you are truly sorry and go to Confession, it is removed.”


Father David Sherry