This Tuesday we celebrate the First Reconciliation for the second Grade class of our PSR program. While we normally pay a little more attention and recognize when they are celebrating their First Communion we can also support them and beinspired by them for their First Reconciliation also.
In second grade they usually are around 7 years old, what we consider the age of reason. That is why they will celebrate their First Communion this year, they can understand and distinguish to some degree the difference between ordinary bread and the Eucharist, but also they can understand right from wrong at a level that they couldn’t before. This not only means that they now can knowingly and intentionally sin, but also that they can similarly ask for forgiveness. Actually one of the things you have to teach them at that age is that if something is an accident it isn’t a sin. While the fact that you weren’t paying attention or doing as you were supposed to and this caused the accident might be the sin, but the actual accident itself wasn’t.
I think looking at how they recognize sin, and how we have to teach them the difference of what they are not responsible for, but also what they are, is probably a good example for the rest of us also. We can get upset with ourselves or feel guilty for something that happened that might have just been an accident and itself wasn’t really our fault – when we should be upset with ourselves and feeling guilty for the position we put ourselves into that led to the accident. We had control of that and even if we might have gotten lucky and the accident didn’t happen, we still wouldn’t be innocent. I know I’ve heard a few times when a child was confessing that they failed a test and I told them that failing a test wasn’t a sin, but if we weren’t respecting our parents or teachers and listening in class, doing our homework, and studying for the test, using the gifts God gave us as He desired instead of just how we wanted, that might be where we sinned. If we did all of that and still failed the test then the test is doing what it is supposed to and showing that we need a little more help with this topic. I think we can find similar things for us adults to consider too.
This is also the First week of Advent. It is going to be a short one this year, only three weeks and one day. Maybe we can use the example and encouragement of the children receiving their First Reconciliation to encourage us to also celebrate the sacrament. Advent isn’t necessarily a penitential time like Lent, but it is a time of preparation. What better way to prepare to receive Christ, like the second graders are, then to recognize and ask for the forgiveness of our sins.