The Lost Sacrament and The Lost Sheep
I was busy this past couple of months preparing my second grader for his First Reconciliation (Confession). I was a little bit surprised when I first learned that I would be the one teaching him about this Sacrament. My children attend public schools where Religion courses are not taught. So they attend their catechism classes every Saturday in our parish church. But you see, my two older sons learned about Confession through their catechism classes. So it was a different experience for Ryland.
To prepare the parents for this task, we were invited to attend three meetings. It was really sort of a refresher course on what Reconciliation is all about. And also to guide parents on how to explain this Sacrament in such a way that our 7- or 8-year olds could understand.
On the first meeting, we were asked to remember about our experiences in Confession. I was one of the parents who couldn’t remember the first time I went to the Confession. Talk about selective memory, eh? Yeah, I do have a lot of baggage that is repressed deep inside me. Well, what I remember is that I had it the day before my First Communion. Because back then, and this was also what my two older sons experienced, Confession and Communion go side by side. And back then, we also went to the Confessional box. I guess for me, it was less intimidating knowing that the priest couldn’t see my face when I told him my sins.
There was this Dad at the meeting who remembered going to Confession as a kid as a terrifying experience. He went to a Catholic school and every other Friday or so, he would line up in a hallway with the rest of the students waiting for his turn to go in the Box, while contemplating about his sins and worrying if Father would remember that his sins were the same ones he confessed the last time.
We don’t use the Box now. I remember my first time to go to Confession when I first came here in Winnipeg. I was surprised that I didn’t have to go to a Confessional box. I was kind of embarrassed to tell Father my sins, face to face. We sat next to each other in one of the pews. I was, at a certain point and up until that time, what people say “living in sin.” I felt so vulnerable. I cried my eyes out. It was a very intimidating experience. But I felt so relieved and so clean after that.
Which brings me to what a Mom shared at that meeting. She said that her husband tells their children, “going to Confession is like taking a bath. What would you feel if you don’t take a bath for a month? You would be stinky. If you don’t go to Confession, your soul will be stinky.” I must be one of those stinky souls because I don’t go that often. But I always pray to God every night and ask for his forgiveness. Could I be really stinky?
I didn’t mind teaching Ryland about Confession. The parents were given a Family Guide, which included stories and pictures, to help tackle this task. For half an hour, three to four nights a week, Ryland and I sat down by ourselves and learned (for me, I re-learned) about the Sacrament of Reconciliation. And I even noticed that Ryland appreciated the conversations and special time that we spent together. I also noticed, that my middle son, Ryan, hang around a couple of times, probably wanting to have a special one-on-one time with me as well. And we will. He’s having his Confirmation later this school year so we will have this special time together when we prepare for that. I try to have one-on-one time with each of my three children whenever I find the time. But I guess I can never give them as much as they’d like.
These past weeks, Ryland has learned how to follow the paths of God. He has learned how to forgive and how to be a peacemaker. He also learned the story of The Lost Sheep – Luke 15: 1-7.
This is the version that we read together.
Once a shepherd had 100 sheep. He loved them very much and took good care of them. One evening, as he brought them back to the stable, he counted his sheep as usual: 97-98-99… But where was the hundredth?
The worried shepherd left his other sheep and set out to find his lost sheep.
At last he found her at the bottom of a ravine, entangled in thorns.
Did the shepherd complain to her? No, just the opposite. He was so happy that he put her on his shoulders and sang on his way home.
As he passed through the village, he gathered his friends together and invited them to celebrate with him.
In the same way, Jesus said:
“There is great joy in heaven when a single sinner comes back to God.”