Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Sharing about the sacrament of Confession with youth

It has been almost a year since I last posted on this blog.

This comes from a confirmation catechist of mine. Nothing special, just my quick thoughts back. If anyone has any other insight they could add (or analogy, image, classroom exercise, etc.) to drive home the beauty and truth of the sacrament of penance, please add your comments (be they to the blog or to Facebook).

"Hey Chris, I want to work on/talk about the importance of reconciliation
tonite, do you have any quick references in the bible I can use??"

See the attached guides... and then get Thumpin'!
[I include in this post immediately below the relevant portion, though the actual guide has nice one line descriton/summary/explanations of each verse]

CONFESSION IS NOT A PRIAVE AFFAIR IN THE BIBLE: Lev 5:14-26; Num 5:6-7; Matt 3:6; Acts 19:18; James 5:16 [see also Lev 26:39-42; Psalm 32:3-5; Prov 28:13; Mark 1:5]

JESUS HAS POWER TO FORGIVE SINS: Matt 9:1-8; Mark 2:10; Luke 7:48 [see also Acts 2:38; 1 John 1:9]

JESUS GIVES HIS POWER TO FORGIVE SINS TO HIS PRIESTS: John 20:23; Matt 16:19; Matt 18:18; 2 Cor 5:18; James 5:14-15 [see also Luke 22:29-30; James 5:16]

JESUS CONTINUES EXAMPLE OF PRIESTLY FORGIVENESS IN OT: Lev 4:20; Lev 5:14-26 [see also: Lev 4:13-21, 27-35; 5:5; Num 5:8]


PENANCE AS SATISFACTION FOR SINS: Matt 3:8; 2 Cor 7:10 [see also Luke 3:8; Acts 2:38]

Go to the section on "Confession" in Vol. 2 of the Bible Thumper. That gives you the major steps to take the kids through. You can only focus on a few verses, of course. I would focus on Jn 20:23, James 5:14-15, and the passages about the keys/authority to bind and loose Mt 16:19 and 18:18. The main questions most kids have is why they have to go to a priest to confess their sins instead of going "straight to God." This is a typically contemporary American way of seeing sin and forgiveness. The fact is, our sin not only offends God, it also harms the body of Christ--the community of salvation (if one part of the body is wounded, the entire body suffers, wrote St. Paul--1 Cor 12:26). Therefore, the priest acts in the person of Christ--Christ forgiving the person through his human agent (who is given special authority to do this through the sacrament of Holy Orders)... and the priest represents the Church, as well. Forgiveness comes through Christ AND his community/body the Church.

Also, Jesus knew that we needed to have a true "sit-down" experience with God so that we could truly take responsibility for our sins (naming them, preventing us from deceiving ourselves or falling into presumption and a casual view of sin... taking for granted that God forgives us anything no matter whether or not we are truly sorry, etc.). As one priest once said, when faced with our own sin confession makes you "name it, claim it, and tame it". Also, the ritual of the sacrament (in Latin, sacramentum is same as the Greek word mysterium... the sacraments are mysteries... sacred encounters with the Risen Lord... where we are brought into the paschal mystery--the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Lord) leaves us no doubt that we have been forgiven of our sins. We do not need to speculate whether we were sorry enough, or whether God truly heard us or gave his forgiveness. If we sincerly approach the sacrament having reviewed our conscience, confessed all (at least mortal) sins that come to mind (nothing ommitted), having true contrition (sorrow) for these sins, having a firm purpose of amendment (the desire to at least try to avoid such sins in the future), and performing the prescribed penance in order to make satisfaction for the damage done by sin (to God, ourself and our neighbor), then we KNOW we have been forgiven.

Who would trade this one-on-one experience of God's mercy for a vague prayer to God before we go to bed, "my bad, God, you know I did some bad things, you are cool with it, right?". There are few experiences that are more powerful for me than having the priest make the sign of the cross over my bowed head as a I humbly kneel in the confessional and hear the words "I absolve you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

Of course, it is always important to tie in confession with baptism (which is the forgiveness of original sin and any actual sins we may have committed if we were of the age of reason before baptism)... confession renews our baptism, ... and also, of course, tie it in with the eucharist (though we are always sinners, confession purifies us for true worship of the Father and communion).
I hope that helps.
Sorry for the excessive and obnoxious use of parenthesis.