This weekend’s Gospel passage reveals Christ’s great desire to heal us of everything that drags us down and enslaves us. The leper comes to Jesus saying, “If you wish, you can make me clean.” Our Lord wastes no time reassuring him: “I do will it. Be made clean.”
In the midst of the Church, the Lord’s desire to “make us clean” is most powerfully evident in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This sacrament is a great gift of God’s perfect mercy made tangible in the words of the priest: “I absolve you of all your sins.” Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, baptismal grace is restored and we are reconciled again to God through the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.
We believe that in that moment, Christ is speaking through the priest — that in fact, Christ Himself is forgiving the sins you’ve just confessed. Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen once told a group of priests that “the very Blood of Christ is dripping from our fingers onto their heads, washing the penitent clean.”
Catholics aren’t going to Confession because they think the priest has any inherent power in himself to forgive sins. Rather, we believe that the priest has been set apart by God — consecrated — for the great privilege and ministry of being the Lord’s chosen instrument of grace.
By his ordination, the priest makes present for us once more the Incarnate Lord’s immense love by making the Sacraments available to God’s people.