#WednesdayWisdom: God’s Forgiveness

Wednesday 4th March 2020

It’s time for March’s dose of Wednesday Wisdom from the Wisdom Group! This month, we’ll be focusing on God’s Forgiveness and we hope that many of our Catechists and parents will spare a few moments to watch Fr Gavin Landers speaking about this topic.

Now you’ve listened, you can reflect on Fr Gavin’s words with a reflection from Patty Ganley of the Wisdom Group.

We know that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a very underused Sacrament.

It is such a gift to us too! As catechists we can make it our mission to encourage our brothers and sisters to take advantage of this wonderful blessing.

Of course when I was a child we used to call it ‘Confession’ all the time. It is still referred to as this very often.

I have to say that I much prefer the title ‘Sacrament of Reconciliation’ and always try to refer to it as that when working with children and their parents. Its amazing how much language and choice of words matter. The word ‘reconciliation’ implies a positive coming together between our selves and our loving God. In the last few days, a catechist friend said to me a key message to spread to others is that this Sacrament is a precious and loving ‘encounter’ with my Saviour’.

Of course, the Sacrament demands that we make a confession! People find it hard to approach a priest and do this and the longer we go on without doing so, the harder it gets. Many can’t see why it is necessary and say “why can’t I just say I am sorry privately to God in my prayers and ask his forgiveness?” This is something parents will often say during catechist sessions.

To be fully forgiven, it is really important that we are given the chance to offload the things we are worrying about. But also we cannot express our true repentance unless we have really taken responsibility for our wrong doings and confronted them. When dealing with arguments amongst children in which unkind words or actions had been said or done, as a teacher I was always in the habit, at the point of reconciliation of saying to the children “What are you saying sorry for?”.  When the child faced the situation openly and owned their mistakes, true apology and forgiveness followed.

Recently, I had a wonderful conversation with a young parent of a child who is at the moment preparing for First Reconciliation. Mum said to me that she didn’t see why children of that age should be confessing to a priest and when I asked her why she said her son didn’t really ‘sin’. Then she went on to say she had always struggled with Confession and the need to tell the priest things to gain God’s forgiveness. I really admired her for her honesty and told her so and thanked her for it.

My response was to say that my experience of Reconciliation was that I often found it difficult to forgive myself and believe in God’s forgiveness. I told her that many carry heavy burdens of guilt around. If we could only have the courage to go through the process of the Sacrament, it is a real and concrete sign that God has truly forgiven us. The ritual itself helps us to accept that fact. Praying about our sins does help on a day to day basis, but it just doesn’t cut it if we want to really feel God’s love and peace descend.

She ended the conversation by saying that it was a long time since she had received the Sacrament, but she really wanted to give it a go with her son. She did admit then that she knew her son was aware when he made wrong choices!

It is such a privilege when parents share something so personal and give us the chance to accompany them in this way. As catechists we need to be gentle and encouraging. Revealing something of your own journey with the Sacrament is very powerful!

In February 2014 at a general audience, Pope Francis encouraged his listeners to take advantage of the Sacrament as follows:

“….from a human point of view, in order to unburden oneself, it is good to talk with a brother and tell the priest these things that are weighing so much on my heart. And one feels that one is unburdening oneself before God, with the Church, with his brother. Do not be afraid of Confession!

And if much time has passed, do not lose another day. Go, the priest will be good. Jesus is there… Jesus receives you, he receives you with so much love.

Be courageous and go to Confession!”

Finally, something that really worked in our catechist session! Two of our catechists acted out a child going to the priest for Confession for the first time from the point when the child thinks through what they are going to say (Examination of conscience) through the whole process of the Sacrament.

We were lucky we had two excellent actresses! However, that isn’t necessary. It just takes the fear of the unknown or unremembered out of going for the first time for the children and for many years (if that is the case) for parents.

You could feel the sense of relaxation amongst the parents and children and they broke out into spontaneous applause at the end!

Our group  pray that this will translate into many parents who haven’t been to the Sacrament for a long time going with their child at their First Reconciliation.

We want all our parents and children to feel the open loving arms of their Saviour round them and a deepening ongoing encounter in the future.

We will be sharing a video and reflection point each month but you can watch more videos in the series now by clicking this link. 

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