The first three Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, and the Eucharist, are Sacraments of Initiation. They usher in a new life in Christ. However, because of the fall, this new life is damaged by sin. Both original and personal. Jesus heals us just as He healed those during His public ministry, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Also called Penance and Confession, but I like Reconciliation the most. As it was explained to me during RCIA, confession is your action in the sacrament, but reconciliation is how God works through it.
Our sins damage our relationships with God and with His Church and this sacrament repairs, or reconciles us.
There are a lot of misconceptions about this sacrament. For instance, people do not understand that one cannot just admit or confess their sins and repair their relationships. First, their must be an interior conversion of heart. We must be truly contrite. Our interior truth then manifests it’s self through three traditional practices: fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. These three actions work to cause a conversion and reconciliation, with outselves, with God, and with others.
Also, many mistakenly think we believe the priest is forgiving our sins. Only God forgives, the priest stands in person of God for us to receive the material, outward symbol of the inner truth. Also, confessing through the priest acts to repair our damaged relationship with God’s Church, just as Jesus’ healing a in His ministry often brought people back into their community.
God gave Peter the authority to forgive sins when he said. “I give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever you loosen on earth small be loosened in heaven.”