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        "Only God can forgive sins."  Yes, but Christ is God. 

        Priests give absolution. . . because you asked for it, so they must absolve.  But they have no way of finding out if your sins are forgiven.  Repentance is from the heart and only God knows the hearts of men.  The priest has no way of finding that out. . .unless he is a saint.  . 

        The only thing a priest is certain is that if you live a life of repentance rather than one of sin then your sins are forgiven thee. 

        Only God can forgive sins.  The priest received the power to bind or to loosen.  Not to forgive.  In the example of Lazarus, St. Augustine says that it was Christ who called Lazarus from the dead.  So only Christ can call us from the death of sin. 

        Only after Christ had raised Lazarus did He instruct his disciple to loosen Lazarus' bandages.  Only after Christ had raised the soul from the dead into the life of grace can the priest loosen the bandages of sin by absolution. 

        St. Augustine decries the fact that priests keep on loosening the bandages by their absolution when Christ had not yet raised the soul from the dead.  So we find ourselves surrounded by stinking cadavers whose bandages have been removed.

        Holy priests would know when the dead soul has been raised from the dead, and, therefore, worthy of absolution.  But where can we find holy priests? 

        So we are faced by the question:  Are our sins forgiven?  Well, live a life of repentance rather than of sin and you can be certain that your sins are forgiven.  There are many ways by which our sins can be easily forgiven.  Let us deal only with two. 

        If, with the Psalmist, you can say, "My sins are always before me," then God promises He will forget those sins.  The sins you always remember and grieve for, God promises He will forget.  "Turn Your eyes away from my sins. . . for my sins are always before me." 

        The other is this:  The sins that you acknowledge and judge and punish here on earth, God will not judge and punish.  But then you can do neither of the two unless you know exactly what your sins are.  So we go back to the most important activity in repentance, i.e. to know sins exactly as they are in the eyes of God. 

St. Caesarius of Aries 







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