In older Bibles, one can read the phrase of Jesus: “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me” (Matthew 19:14). Today we see the phrase being translated a little more children-friendly by saying, “Bring the little children to me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” I was particularly touched by these phrases during the last few weeks when I was hearing confessions from young schoolchildren.
Of course, since Daylesford Abbey offers the prospect of Reconciliation as one of its charisms, many times we are called on to perform the ministry of the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the local parishes and schools. This is such an important part of my ministry as a Norbertine – to help others experience the merciful and unconditional love of Jesus in the sacrament of Reconciliation. Unfortunately, many of these little children come to confession “scared to death” that they will not know the exact phrases to make a good confession. One little girl came to confession, sat down, and started bawling because she couldn’t remember what she was told to say during the sacramental encounter. I smiled at her and put her at ease as she smiled back at me and I told her that God wasn’t all that interested in how she “said her confession”, but more importantly wanted her sorrow for some of the wrong things she had done since her last confession and to know that God loves her unconditionally. She took a deep breath, smiled again and thanked me for not “hollering” at her…… and I spoke with her about some things she shouldn’t have done and then gave her absolution. She looked at me and smiled and thanked me for being such a nice person. I responded by asking her to remember that God is the “nicest person” she could ever have in her life. She walked away smiling confidently and happy that she “made a good confession”.
It is a great privilege for priests to work with penitents in the sacrament of Reconciliation, especially for us Norbertines who stress Reconciliation as one of our charisms. I felt so happy for that little girl and for myself who helped her experience the loving power of God in her young life, perhaps to remember this sacramental encounter that next time she approaches Reconciliation. Yes, bring the young children to a loving God. It was good to change the word “suffer” to “bring” and know that, in return, the children get the gift of knowing that they are the loving children of God.
Thank you, Lord, for opening my heart to this experience and let it always be a lesson for me to keep in mind the next time some little one comes to the sacrament. After all, we all are children of a loving God.