The dictionary defines penance as “a voluntary self-punishment inflicted as an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong.” Reading from the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, they write about penance, “Not only does it [the Sacrament of Penance] free us from our sins but it also challenges us to have the same kind of compassion and forgiveness for those who sin against us. The Sacrament of Penance is God’s gift to us so that any sin committed after Baptism can be forgiven.” Reading from the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, they write, “The Catholic Church teaches that it is necessary to confess one’s mortal sins to a priest in the Sacrament of Penance in order to receive forgiveness from God.”

From the Catholic Online website, we read their Act Of Contrition prayer, “My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.”

The act of penance, or ‘self-punishment’, is so strange to me. It’s as if you feel the need to condemn yourself for sins you have committed. We read in Romans 8:1, “Therefore there is now NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (NASB) The Lord DOES NOT CONDEMN those who are saved. How could He? 1 John 1:7 tells us that, “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” ALL SIN, past, present, and future! We have been completely cleansed by the blood of the Lamb Of God.

It is proper that when we sin, we should confess those sins, however we should confess to the Lord. We read in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” When we confess from a repentant heart, the Lord not only forgives us, He cleanses us from those sins. This action is to maintain a right relationship with the Lord. While we are already cleansed from ALL SIN, we confess any sin committed to the Lord so that we might remain in close fellowship with Him. To think that we can confess to a priest and he can forgive our sins is so unscriptural. Early in His career, the Lord Jesus healed a crippled man and said to him in Mark 2:5, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” This enraged the scribes who heard Him, and they asked in verse 7, “Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? WHO CAN FORGIVE SINS BUT GOD ONLY?” They were absolutely right. Only God can forgive sin. They just didn’t realize that Jesus IS God. No priest, bishop, or even the pope can forgive one single sin. It is only the Lord who can do that, so confess your sins to Him. He will forgive and cleanse you when you do! Plus, you do not need a pre-written prayer. Just talk to the Lord from your heart. That is what He longs to hear.

It is also proper that we confess our sins to one another, not to a priest. We read in James 5:16, “Therefore, CONFESS YOUR SINS TO ONE ANOTHER, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (NASB) We learn here that it is very profitable to confess our sins to each other so that we might pray for each other. When I tell a trusted brother about some sin I am struggling with, I am encouraged to know that he will be praying for me. This is one example of the body of Christ working together to help one another. (269.8)