How to walk your child toward Jesus' mercy

The Journey to the Sacrament of Confession
November 7, 2022

At one time or another, many of us, I argue, can relate to the sinful woman who seeks forgiveness from Jesus for her sins.[1] Where you and I may differ in this biblical example is the woman’s steps to seek and ask for Jesus’ forgiveness of her sins. She recognizes Jesus as Lord and immediately anoints him with her tears. Standing behind our Lord while continuing to cry, she wiped her tears from his feet with her hair and then proceeded to kiss and anoint Jesus’ feet.

The woman’s actions reveal a desire for healing through forgiving her sins. Her actions also express a genuine love for Him, affirming Jesus as God’s Son. Unfortunately, Simon the Pharisee who had invited Jesus to his home chose not to embrace Jesus with humility and reverence, and Jesus tells him why this is so due to the hardness of his heart.

Jesus seizes the opportunity to teach Simon about the need for forgiveness and mercy through the story of the creditor who forgave his debtors. The one who owed the most was the one who loved the creditor more for forgiving his debt. After this story, Jesus reminds everyone present that the sinful woman expressed the virtue of love more by her actions toward Christ because she humbly presented herself to Jesus in love and begged for forgiveness. At the end of this narrative, two significant events occur: Jesus forgives the woman of all of her sins, and he explains why they are forgiven because of her faith that has saved her.[2]

The Scandal of seeking forgiveness

The thought of seeking God’s mercy and developing an active relationship with Jesus Christ should be met with great joy. However, because of our inclination to sin-concupiscence due to the Fall of our first parents, the devil has seized the opportunity to try and destroy us from within. As Jesus came to call us to repentance, the devil will do everything he can to convince us there is no such need to have our sins forgiven through the sacrament of confession.   

We understand that God can only forgive sins. Since he is the Son of God, Jesus rightfully proclaims that he has authority on earth to forgive sins and exercise divine power through the proclamation that your sins are forgiven.[3] Jesus hands on the authority and power to forgive sins to the Apostles as part of their ministry of reconciliation.[4] We can confer that there is a more significant scandal in not seeking the sacrament of penance to heal you from your sins.

Walking your child toward Jesus’ mercy

The journey of introducing your child to the sacramental life begins before he is born, many years before how you and I actively lived our sacramental relationship with Jesus Christ. I describe our sacramental disposition and demeanor as the first instance a child encounters a sacramental environment. When this environment is actively reinforced through active participation in the mass and confession, the child, I argue, will begin to experience the Christian sacramental heritage of their parents. Children possess the ability to understand the importance of a sacrament if it is exposed as a natural desire to receive the sacraments of penance primarily through developing a family atmosphere of love and forgiveness centered on Jesus Christ and ultimately leading the entire family toward the sacrament of healing.  

The following steps are meant to serve as a practical guide for parents to introduce, strengthen, and awaken a child’s understanding of Jesus’ mercy through the sacrament of penance:

First, introduce the biblical accounts of the sacraments of penance to your children. Highlight that Jesus’ mercy is greater than our sins and that his mercy is infinite.

Second, remind your child that he is created in God’s image and likeness and that nurturing and protecting our souls from the evil of sin can destroy our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Third, introduce your child to an examination of conscience to strengthen your child’s ability to discern and understand their sins and not commit them again. The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the Ten Commandments, the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic Letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings.[5]

Fourth, introduce your child to the act of contrition. Contrition is “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.[6]

Fifth, the reception of the sacrament of Jesus’ mercy should be a family affair. The witness of parents serves as a spiritual catalyst in the development of the awe and wonder of the sacramental life for your child. The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission, the man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church to make a new future possible.[7]

"Confession heals, confession justifies confession grants pardon of sin. All hope consists in confession. In confession is found the place of mercy. Believe, therefore, most certainly, and in no way hesitate, in no way doubt, and by no means despair of the mercy of God. Have hope in confession, have faith in it. Do not despair of this remedy for spiritual health. And do not despair in your healing, so long as you desire to turn to better things."

St. Isadore of Seville



[1] Lk 7:36-50

[2] Lk 7:48-50

[3] CCC 1441

[4] CCC 1442

[5] CCC 1454

[6] CCC 1451

[7] CCC 1455

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