We were sitting in the church pews with no lights on. It was early evening in late January, and dark was coming quickly.
In the front, on the step leading up to the altar, there was a candle burning in front of a mirror.
Our First Communicants were gathered on the floor in front. They weren’t looking too nervous, considering that they were moments from their First Reconciliation.
“See the candle burning brightly?”
The kids nodded. And, in some cases, they leaned forward or jumped a little to show their enthusiasm.
“That candle is our soul, with Jesus making it burn. When we’re baptized, the candle is lit.”
It made me pause, that image of the baptismal candle. I remembered my own daughter’s baptism, holding the candle as I balanced her body in my arms.
“But sin is so easy sometimes.” Here the leader held up a glass mason jar. She started lowering it gently over the candle.
“It doesn’t seem to be making a big difference. See how the candle is still burning?”
And it was. The kids could see it and so could I. What’s the big deal about sin anyway?
“But we keep doing it. We keep stepping away from God. We slowly give in to sin again and again, in small ways, ways that seem invisible and unimportant.”
The candle was almost covered by the jar but still going. It was starting to flicker a bit, and as she ended her sentence, setting the jar down on top, it dimmed quite a bit.
There was, of course, a budding scientist in the crowd. “There’s no oxygen!” he announced.
“That’s what sin does! It takes away our soul’s oxygen!” She pulled the jar off just before the flame went completely out. “And that’s what Reconciliation does! It lets the flame glow strongly and brightly!”
There was a stampede of kids to the confessional, and it made me want to go, too. I used the same lesson a few days later with my fifth-grade class, with the lights out. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a way for them to go to confession, though I did find out later that at least one of them did go to confession.
What object lessons do you use to teach about confession?