Reconciliation: The Wisdom Of 7-Year Olds

On the last Saturday before Christmas break, I introduced the belief of a forgiving God to my First Communion class.  The lesson was based on a re-telling of The Prodigal Son.  As usual, the class, the full complement of 21 this Saturday, participated eagerly in the discussion.

Parable-of-the-Prodigal-Son-picture

The students had many questions:  what if you keep doing the same sin over and over again – will God still forgive you; what if you break more than one 10 Commandment; can you break more than one 10 Commandment at a time; what if I do something but I don’t really mean it but I do it anyway?  Their examples of mortal and venial sins were varied and showed an understanding of right and wrong.  The class was very lively that morning, drawing answers and insights from the parable as well as real-life incidents from school and home.

To illustrate the teaching of being reconciled to God, I found that the most effective way was a physical demonstration.  Standing very close to the crucifix on my desk showed that when I am reconciled to God through the Sacrament of Confession, I am very close to Jesus.  As I gave examples of different sins, I moved a little or a lot further away from the crucifix depending on whether the sin was venial or mortal.  The children agreed that when we love someone, we want to be close to them, not far away.  When I asked the class how I could return to Jesus, there was an almost unanimous raising of hands and some children shouted out, “Tell Jesus you’re sorry!”

“Will Jesus force me to tell Him I’m sorry?” I asked.

“No!”

“Do I have to really mean it when I say I’m sorry?”

“Yes!”

And finally, to drive home the point, “Will God ever stop loving you no matter how bad your sins are?”

“No!”

I sometimes wonder how many of the bright young children in my class will have the same enthusiasm for the Faith when they become adults.  The Sacrament of Confession, it seems, is what we tend to discard first as we get older and then other teachings also fall away.  Once we lose the humility to acknowledge our sinfulness, we start to lose our faith.

What my Saturday morning class, and my own children when they were younger, demonstrate for me is Jesus’ admonition to become like a little child to enter into the Kingdom of God.  See how enthusiastically the kids learn their lessons, how eager they are to express their opinion and how willing they are to do their catechism homework.  When did we adults start losing that innocence and wonder?  When did we begin moving further and further away from the crucifix and how do we get back?

Our loss of innocence was gradual, almost imperceptible as we became immersed in the demands and cares of life.  Most of us don’t even realize how far away from Jesus we really are.  He stayed right where He always is, in our hearts, calling us to come back to Him but we started down our own self-destructive path in the opposite direction.

This Advent, as we prepare for the birth of our Saviour, the time is right for us to turn back to Jesus.  How do we do that?  I think the first thing we ought to do is listen to the profound words of an enthusiastic group of 7-year olds:

confession“Tell Him you’re sorry!”

Deo Gratias

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13 Responses to Reconciliation: The Wisdom Of 7-Year Olds

  1. culinarycath says:

    Thank you for sharing. I sent this article to my sister, her son will be receiving his First Communion next year.

  2. reinkat says:

    Great post. I enjoyed it and was inspired by the faith and enthusiasm of your class.
    You wondered when we began to lose that innocent eager attitude, and if it had to do with humility. No doubt it does, but I think the biggest factor is our need to conform and fit in. By the time one is 14, that becomes a pressing need. When you are surrounded by a secular relativist culture, it is difficult indeed to find the courage to step out and lead, and to face down the ridicule and marginalization that you risk being dealt. Perhaps one way to keep faith strong in our kids is to provide strong community and support for middle and high-schoolers. Not sure how to do that, but I think that those are the crucial ages to try to keep interested in matters of faith.

    • True, but perhaps resisting the relativist culture also requires humility.

    • I see it in the high school students I teach…they are still eager although many will never admit it and they have so many questions! Are adults strong and knowledgable enough in their faith to answer their questions? I think perhaps if they don’t get a strong answer, fom a parent or teacher, they may think to themselves that if the adult doesnt know, or is brushing me off maybe my question is silly…maybe my eagerness is silly. I could be totally off base here but it’s an observation I’ve made in my school.

      Our relativist society does make it hard to find the truth & confuses our young people. For example the other day we discussed the idea of whether society believes in sin and every journal I got back said the world doesn’t believe in sin anymore. They still did believe in sin themselves but I wonder how long that will last, especially when I think of my own friends (mid 20s) who don’t believe in it anymore 😦

      • reinkat says:

        It is so hard to remain encouraged and upbeat–and so vital that we do, for the sake of these young ones as well as our disillusioned peers. All is possible through grace and faith, though.

  3. Terry, your description of sin and reconciliation was excellent even for adults struggling to understand the need to confess. Thank you!

  4. laurabarnesmiller says:

    Thank you for such a wonderful post. I always look forward to your blog. Refreshing! May you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed 2013!

  5. lilyboat says:

    Children are good reminders of what we should become. Great post! “Tell Him you’re sorry!” I love that!

  6. I loved how you moved away from the crucifix to show a visual example of what sin does to our relationship with Jesus!

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