The Ways of God’s Forgiveness
Baptised non-Catholics may not receive the sacrament of penance except under certain circumstances. I find this hard to reconcile with the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Lk 18:9-14) who beat his breast and said: God, have mercy on me a sinner. I wonder if the question was put to Jesus, how he would have responded. Brian Thomas
What you suggest is that God will immediately forgive the sins of those who are sincerely repentant, and there is no need for a priest to hear confessions and absolve the penitent from sin.
Pope Francis very recently addressed your concern by pointing out that the sinner does not stand alone before God but in union with Christ and his Church.
At his public audience on November 20 last, the pope said: It is a little difficult to understand how a man can forgive sins but Jesus gives this power.
He quoted Christ’s words to his apostles: Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained (Jn 20:22,23). He said God himself willed that those who belong to Christ and to the Church receive forgiveness by means of the ministers of the community.
Sometimes you hear someone claiming to confess directly to God…Yes, as I said before, God is always listening, but in the sacrament of reconciliation he sends a brother to bestow his pardon, the certainty of forgiveness, in the name of the Church.
God forgives every contrite sinner personally, but Pope Francis expressed this truth in terms of our union in Christ: The Christian is tied to Christ, and Christ is united to the Church.
For us Christians there is a further gift, there is also a further duty: to pass humbly through the ecclesial community. We have to appreciate it; it is a gift, a cure, a protection as well as the assurance that God has forgiven me. I go to my brother priest and I say: Father, I did this… And he responds: But I forgive you; God forgives you.
At that moment I am sure that God has forgiven me! And this is beautiful, this is having the surety that God forgives us always, he never tires of forgiving us. And we must never tire of going to ask for forgiveness. You may feel ashamed to tell your sins…We blush once but then our sins are forgiven and we go forward.