Teaching About God's Gift of Forgiveness
By Pixie Smith, RCL Benziger Senior Regional Sales Representative
When is the last time you put yourself in time-out? Have you ever taken something away from yourself as punishment for something you did wrong? Can you remember the last time you said to a family member, colleague, or student, "I am sorry and I should not have done that, said that..." etc.? If you answered "never" and "no" to these questions, then you have a great opportunity to use this year's catechetical theme - "Teaching about God's Gift of Forgiveness" - to work on your conversion!
Forgiveness, after all, is given by God freely and endlessly because of His abundant love for us. When we receive forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation (or any Sacrament), we receive another share of God's own life within us: God's grace. As baptized people, we are commissioned to become what we receive. We don't just say we were baptized, we say we are baptized. We are forgiven. We are fully initiated into the Church. We, therefore, have the responsibility to be love in the world for others and to forgive each other.
Actions always speak louder than words. If we practice habits of forgiveness in our homes, schools, and workplaces, then our children will learn about God's gift of forgiveness. Following are some practical ideas to use every day at home or at school.
AT HOME: Eat at least one family meal together to facilitate the following.
Practice reflecting on the day's events (good and bad). Discuss where there were opportunities for forgiveness that may have been missed, or affirm forgiving behavior. It is especially important that EVERYONE participate. Children need to hear their parents acknowledge their bad choices and sinfulness.
Talk to children about feelings of shame and guilt for bad choices and then feelings of peace and joy when forgiveness is received or given.
Be sure family rules and consequences are clear and concise. Consequences for failing to follow a rule must include penance and forgiveness. Part of this process could be to create a family mission statement to establish basic moral standards that are always expected inside and outside the household.
As a family, participate in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation more often and talk about how it feels when you know God forgives you.
AT SCHOOL/PARISH FORMATION SESSIONS: Lessons on forgiveness might not be your lesson content every day, but habits of forgiveness can be established and lived every day.
As is age appropriate, encourage the students to establish the rules and consequences for the small community of faith. Again, be sure penance and forgiveness are included as part of the consequences.
Always affirm examples of forgiveness that you witness. Establish some kind of forgiveness incentive program this year in order to foster forgiving behavior.
Be sure to include the story of Joseph and his brothers this year. Consider preparing and presenting a formal production of the story.
Make an extra effort this year to schedule more opportunities for children and youth to receive the Sacrament of forgiveness.
Teaching about God's gift of forgiveness this year will provide a wonderful opportunity for children and families to grow in faith, to share with others the joy of God's love and mercy, and to cultivate habits of peacemaking.
Pixie Smith serves as Senior Regional Sales Representative for RCL Benziger.