During a Wednesday audience, Pope Francis mentioned that sometimes we are tempted to confess other people’s sins during our Confession. But the Holy Father encouraged us to recognize our own sins during the Penitential Rite at Mass and in the sacrament of Confession, rather than the sins of others.
Then on St. Joseph’s Workshop, Fr. Matthew Spencer, OSJ dove more deeply into this subject. He reflected on why we might bring up the sins of others during Confession, and how this reflection can lead us to deeper repentance and a better Confession. Fr. Matthew said:
“I think we do it because we are hurt by the sins of others. When I’m going through life and somebody cuts me off, somebody is mean to me, somebody wrongs me – it hurts me. There’s a wound that opens up when I’m hurt by other people.
And since we know that Confession is a place of healing, we bring that to Confession as well. We bring our woundedness. Wounds that aren’t the result of our own sins all the time, but often wounds that are the result of sins committed against us.
In my experience as a priest, I think that’s why we will spend time in those areas. And my impression is that we don’t even realize that’s what we’re doing, that we’re talking about other people’s sins. We’re just reflecting on our own brokenness and our own woundedness. And sometimes we’re not even aware that there is a distinction between the two – the wounds I’ve committed upon myself by my own sins, and the wounds inflicted on me by others.
But while there is healing in Confession, the principal wounds that are healed are the wounds of the sins that we have committed. The wounds of our own brokenness, because we have not cooperated with God’s grace, and we have not followed His commands in our life. That’s why we’re in Confession in the first place.
I think this is an opportunity for me and you to look at our own brokenness, and to recognize how the sins of other people do hurt you. And it’s OK to recognize that this is part of the reality of sin. But then we have to take it one step further.
It’s not only that my husband hurt me and now I’m wounded, it’s not only that my children have wronged me and therefore I’m hurting very painfully. It’s also the realization that my sin has had the same effect on other people.
The times I’ve gossipped and the ways I’ve spoken ill about others has hurt them and their reputation. The ways I’ve failed in fidelity, in small ways or grave ways – that’s hurting people. It’s hurting others, in the same way that I’m feeling hurt by other people’s sins.
So, I’m inviting you to reflect on this a bit. Not to get you down in the dumps about how many times you’ve hurt other people, because that’s not what leads you to real healing. Though maybe it does help you toward real healing when we recognize the truth, the reality that our sins have an effect on others. And that should help us be all the more repentant for them, be all the more sorry for those sins.
But first we have to recognize them, acknowledge them, accept the responsibility, and then turn them over to the mercy of God.”
Listen to the full reflection below:
St. Joseph’s Workshop with Father Matthew Spencer airs weekdays at 7:00 p.m. Eastern/4:00 p.m. Pacific on Relevant Radio®.