Title: The Mystery of Confession
Subject: Practicing the Sacrament of Confession
Age Group: 8+ years
Liturgical Time: any, appropriate for Lent
Direct Aim: This lesson aims to help youth realize that confession is ultimately an expression of love for God that arises from contrition and the desire to repent.
Begin the session by lining the youth up fifteen to twenty feet in front of a basket. Hand a ping pong ball to the first person in line and ask them to throw it into the basket; repeat until everyone in the line has had a turn.
Have all the youth sit down in a circle and ask them the following questions,
- Why did you try to get the Ping Pong ball into the basket? (The answer will be because you asked them.
- How did you attempt to get the ball into the basket? (Throwing it.)
- What was the goal and when was it accomplished? (To get the ball into the basket and when the ball ended up in the basket)
- Why did some of you miss the goal? (Allow time for answers: possible reasons are not listening to you when you asked them to throw, or bad aim)
Read Matthew 22:34-40:
But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, "‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all you mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:34-40).
In light of the above ask the youth the following questions,
- What does Christ ask us to do? (We want the youth to come to the following answers on there own, our role then is to clarify the answer and supply it if the youth are not "getting it". The answer is Christ calls us to love God and neighbor).
- How do we love? (There are innumerable answers, being kind, giving gifts, with a hug, being there for the other person, helping them, etc. Then explain to the youth that Love is ultimately found in the cross, "Love that seeks not its own.")
- What is the Goal of Love? (This one is harder so probably just supply the answer. Saint Isaac provides the answer when he writes, "the nature of Love is that it makes the Lover present to the Beloved." Saint Maximus says that desire seeks rest in, and union with that which is desired. The goal in responding to Christ's call is union with Him and one another.)
- What is the Greek word for Sin and what does it mean? ("Amartia" and it means "missing the mark").
Explain to the youth that at the beginning you asked them to get the ball into the basket, they attempted to do it by throwing the ball, yet some of them missed. Christ calls us to be with Him. This goal is accomplished through love. moving towards God, and to sin is failure to love Christ and His images (the neighbor)- missing the mark.
Read Luke 22:54-62:
Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest's house. But Peter followed at a distance. Now when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat among them. And a certain servant girl, seeing him as he sat by the fire, looked intently at him and said, This man was also with Him." But he denied Him, saying, "Woman, I do not know Him." And after a little while another saw him and said, "You also are of them." But Peter said, "Man, I am not!" Then after about an hour had passed, another confidently affirmed, saying, "Surely this fellow also was with Him, for he is a Galilean." But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are saying!" Immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had said to him, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." So Peter went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:54-62).
Tell the youth that sin-missing the mark-not loving, is ultimately a denial of Christ, just like Peter. Peter responds by weeping bitterly. When we acknowledge that we hurt the one we love we experience contrition and the desire to make it right.
Read John 21:15-25:
So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?" He said to Him, Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Feed My lambs." He said to him again a second time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" He said to Him, "Yes, Lord; You know that I love You." He said to him, "Tend My sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?" Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, "Do you love Me?" And he said to Him, "Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You." Jesus said to him, "Feed My sheep. Most assuredly I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish." This He spoke, signifying by what death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, Follow Me."
Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays you?" Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, "But Lord, what about this man?" Jesus said to him, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me." Then this saying went out among the brethren that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but, "If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you?" This is the disciple who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen. (John 21:15-25).
Peter confesses his Love to Christ for each of His denials. In the mystery of confession we confess to Christ (not the priest) out of love. Christ tells Peter to "feed my sheep." This implies not just a confessing but a consequent action. Tell the youth that if you asked them to throw the ball into the basket and they said yes, but never threw the ball, would it make it into the basket? It is the same with confession; we must try to change our ways. Tell the youth that more you try to get the ball into the basket, the better you will be at it with practice. It is the same with loving God and neighbor: through hard work and practice will we succeed. Ask the youth how a pitcher like Curt Schilling became so good? The answer is that he practiced and that he was taught, he didn't make up the curve ball. The role of the priest in confession is like the pitching coach, to help you to fulfill your purpose, to love.
Prepared by Micah Hirschy