Recently, I had the opportunity of celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation with young children. Their confessions were were both moving and eye opening. These were children around nine to eleven years old and they were struggling with realities I never much thought about until I was late in high school. Our children today are growing up much quicker than we did due to changes in families, use of technology as early as pre-school, the media and changing values.
Religion is certainly losing its influence in dramatic fashion, with churches, temples and other places of worship becoming emptier. The only faith communities growing are evangelical and fundamentalist in nature. Hearing these children’s confessions gave me strong hope that healthy religion is necessary for our culture. While so many adults have unfortunately given up on Confession and Reconciliation to the point of totally dismissing this Sacrament as “pre-Vatican II,” many of the children I listened to spoke about struggling with life and belief. They were given an outlet to try and work through feeling bad about some of the things they are forced to experience in their worlds.
We need to open eyes to all the realities that make life difficult and confusing for them. We have to remember that they are still children and need a childhood. Jesus says in today’s gospel , “Come to me all you who find life weary and burdensome and I will refresh you,” a verse I normally associate with giving comfort to adults not children. I truly believe that our Church and religion is helping children to make sense of their worlds through beautiful rituals like Reconciliation. I was deeply humbled by the faith and sincerity of these children who opened their hearts to feel accepted and loved by God. What a privilege I was given to be an instrument for Jesus to embrace them and fill them with joy and love. Several children thanked me for the experience…yes, they thanked me for the Confession!!!!!
Jesus says somewhere else in the gospel words that speak Advent on the threshold of Christmas , “Unless you become like a child, you will not enter the Kingdom of God.” These children gave me a Christmas gift I will never forget. While walking to my car, my burdens were lifted…I was refreshed…all because of children. I came into the service feeling tired and burdened but I left the service with a bounce in my step and in my spirit. The rest of the day I was a bundle of energy and enthusiasm.
Buen camino. Padre