I thought you might be interested in how we did things here for our second-graders who participated in the sacrament of reconciliation for the first time.
The children--whether in religious education or Piqua Catholic grade school--have been preparing all year; last night we had a penance service for them and their families. We had a reading from Isaiah, a psalm and a Gospel passage from Luke, concerning the one lost sheep (later in that passage, our Lord talks about the lost coin, and then the lost son--i.e., the "prodigal" son). Yours truly gave the homily, which is below. The children took their turns, after which the adults were welcome to receive the sacrament. Several older children came as well. After receiving the sacrament, the children light a candle and can take a rosary, which I blessed at the end. We had four priests, and I decided we'll need five or six next year.
Afterwards, two of the priests, our religious education coordinator and I went out for something to eat; we ended up staying past closing (at 10, I mean), the conversation was so enjoyable. Thanks to Father Jason Bedel, from Sidney, who joined us!
You might be curious about our timing--we will have First Communion in May, so this gives time for the second-graders to receive the sacrament of confession again before then.
When Father Caserta read the Gospel,
You heard Jesus ask:
What man wouldn’t leave the 99 sheep…
and go find the one that’s lost…
Jesus said, “who doesn’t do that?”
Well…I think we would not do that!
If you’ve got 99 sheep, and one goes off into the woods,
Most people would say,
“too bad…that’s the cost of doing business.”
After all, if you are watching 100,
and one sheep wanders off,
what might happen while you’re gone?
They might wander off, or get in trouble, too!
So this is what happens: we feel badly,
but we let the sheep go.
And we do it with people, too.
We have an argument with someone,
and we are too mad—or too proud—
to be the one to go make up.
“No, she should come to me!”
Maybe there’s someone in our grade at school—
and we don’t know him or her very well;
or we may not like that person so much.
Someone makes fun of that boy or girl,
and we go along with it.
As you may know, everyone is not always
treated with respect in our society.
Sometimes we put people down
because their name sounds funny to us;
or their skin color is different from ours;
because of their clothes,
or their family doesn’t have a lot of money.
Many times, we know people who did wrong—
and we let them wander off; we’d rather they did:
Of course, everything I just said
not only applies to those other people—
those other sheep—it applies to ourselves!
We wander off because we get our focus
on someone other than Jesus, who is our shepherd.
We—or the other sheep we’re with—
would rather be at a soccer game.
We wander off because we decide
that we really don’t need a shepherd—
we know our own way.
I’ll tell you a secret—but you already know it.
Sometimes grownups say,
“now that I’m a grownup,
I don’t need my faith so much. That’s for kids.”
Let me tell you: I’m 48 years old, I’m a grown man.
But I am not so smart that I know every answer.
Today I needed Jon Paul to help me with my computer!
So how can I think I don’t need Jesus to lead me every day?
We might wander off, thinking, what I do is my business.
But caring for each other is our business.
Just like a team, we need everyone. Everyone counts.
So tonight, with the sacrament of penance,
We have the opportunity to get back.
Of course, this is a first time for many of us.
But I am confident it won’t be your last.
Now I know how hard you worked to be ready;
But if you are afraid you’ll forget, don’t worry!
Father Tom, Father Ang, Father Jason and I will help!
(Hint: that’s true for everyone!)
Parents, after your children have their opportunity,
I want to invite you to receive the grace of this sacrament.
Now, we might ask:
“Does this Gospel passage mean the sacrament of reconciliation
is only for the sheep who wander off?”
No! This is sacrament is very powerful to help keep us from wandering off.
After all, I suspect the lamb Jesus talked about
may not have realized, right away, he’d gotten lost.
He was happily chewing on grass,
and didn’t realize Jesus was farther and farther away.
This sacrament keeps us close to the Shepherd—
and teaches us to recognize his voice
in all the ways he speaks to us.
Kids, when you’ve driven with mom and dad,
I bet you noticed this: they will get lost,
but they don’t want to admit they are lost.
Or else, they won’t stop to ask directions!
That can be hard to do;
But it is what we do when we go to confession.
“I’m sorry Lord, I got off track. Help me get back!”
And the more often we come, the more easily we do that.
Finally, remember that when the Lord finds us,
He never says, “I came to find you to kick you out!”
No, we heard what Jesus does:
He gathers up his lamb, puts it on his shoulders, “with great joy!”
Let him find you tonight—
Let him keep you close to his heart.