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What do I do if I am afraid to confess my sin to a priest? by Fr. Anthony Mourad

March 15, 2023

In the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit one God Amen

Have you ever felt very anxious before a confession? Wondering if the priest will judge you or be disappointed in you? Have you ever been tempted to think maybe its better not to confess because you were afraid of revealing your sin? Well this video is done especially for you!  

 

Part 1:  

 

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.  

 

What should I do if I am afraid to confess my sin to a priest? My beloved, let me begin my sharing with you that many of us have struggled at one point in time or another in regards to confession. Some may be tempted to believe that their priest may judge them or look at them differently after confession. Others may feel a strong sense of shame or guilt that will increase their anxiety in regards to confession. Some are even worried that the priest may even reveal their confession to others. In all of these cases, one thing is for sure, you are on the receiving end of spiritual warfare because the devil does not want you to be freed from the burden and the weight of your sin.  

 

It is all too common that the evil one will use our fears against us in order to prevent us from growing closer to God. In the case of confession, which is a sacred mystery in the Church, the devil deals with us no differently. He will trigger our fears, our guilt and shame, and even our pride and ego, in order to convince us any which way that we ought not to follow the teachings of the Church and in so doing, prevent us from receiving the grace of God. So before we begin talking of what we can do, let us first realize that this kind of thinking is a type of intentional warfare. It is therefore to be expected that we would then be fought with thoughts that would attempt to deter us from making the right decision. Lets talk about some of these thoughts.  

 

Part 2:  

 

Tertullian, the great teacher and scholar of the early Church, spoke of the feelings that often overtake those who would prefer to put off confession. He compares it to refusing the healing of the body because of the shame or shyness we may feel with having to expose our naked bodies to physicians. Listen to what he says:  

 

“Regarding confession, some flee from this work as being an exposure of themselves, or they put it off from day to day. I presume they are more mindful of modesty than of salvation, like those who contract a disease in the more shameful parts of the body and shun making themselves known to the physicians; and thus they perish along with their own bashfulness.”  

 

While his comments may be harsh, for those seeking spiritual healing, his words reflect the truth of our need of spiritual healing. The reality is, we often forget that the grace provided to us in the mystery of confession is one that provides a very real spiritual healing to our souls. Its not simply a task that we must do as some form of useless criteria demanded by the Church. Since the time of the apostles themselves, Christians have been encouraged and taught to pursue confession for the sake remission of sins and the healing of the soul. The Didache, a first century collection of the Lord’s teachings through the apostles, testifies of this by giving us the following instruction:  

 

   “4:19 In church you shall confess your sins, and shall not go to your 

prayer with an evil conscience. 4:20 This is the way of life. […] 

14:1 And on the Lord’s own day gather yourselves together and break 

bread and give thanks, first confessing your sins, that your sacrifice 

may be pure.”  

 

It is clear that the earliest of Christians knew and understood the importance of confession within the Church. So if any of us were to internally debate if this is even necessary, as an attempt to appease our conscience to not confront our fears or our ego, then rest assured, there is no doubt in the validity of this sacrament in our Church.  

 

Now some may then try and say, fine confession is important, but do I have to expose myself in front of a priest – is he not a human being and a sinner just like me? In that you would be right, a priest is indeed a mere man, a sinner who also needs confession and repentance, and undergoes similar spiritual struggles. However, you aren’t going to the priest because of his humanity, but rather because of the grace of the priesthood – the priesthood of Christ – that is at work in all of the mysteries of the Church through the priestly orders. Remember, when you go for confession, you are not confessing to a priest in front of God, but rather confessing to God before his priest. There is a great difference! And remember that the priest himself also confesses just like you. As a matter of fact, every Christian person, from the youngest child, to the eldest priest, bishop, or patriarch, everyone one of us must be obedient to the faith and confess our sins to a priest that we may receive the grace of God in the absolution of our sins.  

 

Listen to St John Chrysostom and what he has to say about this:  

 

“Priests have received a power which God has given neither to angels nor to archangels. It was said to them: “Whatsoever you shall bind upon earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose, shall be loosed” [Matt 18:18]. Temporal rulers have indeed the power of binding; but they can bind only the body. Priests, however, can bind with a bond which pertains to the soul itself, and transcends the very heavens…Whatever priests do here on earth, God will confirm in heaven, just as the master ratifies the decision of his servants. Did He not give them all the powers of heaven?”  

 

My beloved, its crystal clear;  if we are to follow the instructions of scripture, the teachings of the apostles, and the traditions of the Church fathers, then confession to a priest in the Church must be seen as essential. The case is closed.  

 

Now that we know we must pursue confession, lets talk about dealing with the fear and the anxiety.  

 

Part 3:  

 

For those who have overcome their fears and finally taken the leap to confess their deepest and darkest sins, they would all be able to confirm the great sense of relief, joy, and peace one receives when they finally get their sins off their chest. The Holy Spirit, whom we call the Comforter, He truly provides a mystical and heavenly comfort, a very real sense of healing to the heart of the person who has received the absolution. Its for this reason that a great Church hero like St Athanasius of Alexandria encourages us in his writings to turn to the church and to the priests for us to receive this great relief and this mystical healing. He instructs us saying:  

 

“Just as a man is enlightened by the Holy Spirit when he is baptized by a priest, so he who confesses his sins with a repentant heart obtains their remission from the priest.”  

 

Its no wonder then that the Church teaches you and I that confession is in and of itself considered to be the renewal of our baptism – when we confess our sins and receive absolution, we leave the confessional encounter just as pure as we did leaving the baptismal font. So we ought to be encouraged my beloved, not allowing the lies of the evil one to slow us down from receiving the love and healing that our Lord and God wants to offer us through His bride, the Church.  

 

Another great father from the fourth century, St Cyril of Jerusalem, he writes to us and teaches us on the magnitude of God’s love, and how our sins pale in comparison to God’s mercy and compassion. Listen to what he says to you and me:  

 

“Your sins piled one above the other do not overtop the greatness of God’s love. Your wounds are not too great for the skill of the Doctor. There is only one course of treatment for you to follow: rely on him in faith. Explain frankly what is wrong to the Doctor and say with the Psalmist: “I acknowledge my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity” [Psalm 32:5]. Then you will be able to go on with the Psalmist to say: “Then did you forgive the guilt of my sin.”  

 

My beloved, its clear as day! Your Lord is waiting for you and deeply desires to remove your sin. Think of all that you have to gain. Think of all the time that has been lost. Think of all the pain and grief we have within us because we’ve chosen to carry our sins for so long. Its time we turn to the Lord in humility and with boldness, believing that nothing shall separate us from his love. Not our fears or anxieties, not our shame or our guilt, and definitely not our false sense of honor or pride. Let nothing get in the way of the grace your God wants to offer you freely.   

#Copticorthodoxanswers #COA

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