The Best Gift
Johnny John. Johnny has a small problem these days of saying exactly what he is thinking. The filter is off, or maybe it was never there. Regardless, as he is getting older this lack of control is getting him into more and more trouble.
Yesterday while doing school, I asked him to pull out his math to work on with me. His response was, “I don’t want to do math now! I don’t have to!” Then he turned his eyes to me and saw the look on my face and said shamefacedly and much softer, “Oh, nevermind.” He dutifully pulled out his math. His sisters got a great laugh out of this whole scene as they were also at the kitchen table working. They knew Johnny had catapulted over the line with that remark. All are familiar with the look on Mom’s face when the line has been crossed.
Sadly, this wasn’t the end of Johnny’s outbursts for the day. He proclaimed loudly he didn’t like his chili for dinner and he wasn’t going to eat it. So he didn’t, and as such lost having Gianna’s birthday cake with the family. (Happy 11th to Gigi!) He really didn’t think he wasn’t going to get the cake until it came time to cut it up, and realized that even eating his chili then was not going to change the punishment. He had made his decision and he had to live with it. He stomped up the stairs and continued to yell out various insults and declarations. He again had slingshot himself over the line and his father was forced to follow him up the stairs and give him a swat on the butt.
When I went upstairs to get all the little ones in bed, Johnny silently walked into our room and leaned up against me as I put Therese in her pajamas. I looked at him and told him that he was getting older and was more responsible for these outbursts as he is more aware of what sin is and what he should and shouldn’t do. Johnny just looked at me with those blue blue eyes and said, “You’re warm.” Johnny needed a little comfort and closeness, and I was happy to give it to him.
I know I have said it before, but it bears saying again, sin leaves us feeling isolated and unhappy. Johnny can tell you that from his first hand experience yesterday. And though Johnny is my example this week, we all sin each and every day. We isolate ourselves from those we love but even more so from God.
The end of last week was particularly bad in the Hilgefort house, and while I don’t need to go into details, we all have those especially bad days or weeks when things somehow seem to come unhinged. I begin to feel all wound up inside and seem incapable of hearing and accepting those things I have done wrong or need to change. I know, as a parent, I can see this same experience unfold for my children in their bad behaviors. I can talk until I am blue in the face, but cannot reach their hardened heart.
Who can reach them? Only Christ. Where can they receive his healing in superabundance? In the sacrament of confession. This is the first and most important gift we should all give our children this Christmas. Before we celebrate the birth of Christ, we must all make that time to take our children to confession. Allow Christ to wash away their sins, strengthen their ability to avoid future sin, and teach them the meaning of humility and our great need for mercy.
For many of us, it may have been a long time since we have gone to confession. This should not be a one time thing. It’s not some magical one time experience that is going to instantly transform ourselves or our children. (Although I will not discount the fact that some have a sentinel moment where they change drastically forever after confession.) For most of us, this will be a process. Confession is a key part of truly overcoming our sinfulness. Eliminating bad habits, while at the same time instilling the habits of virtue is a lifelong journey. Confession is the rest stop along the way where we throw out all the trash and refresh our souls so we can continue on with the journey with renewed vigor.
Visiting Christ in the confessional leaves me feeling warm and comforted by my Savior after experiencing the pain of sin, just like Johnny. I want to show my children above all where to go in their woundedness. They will carry this example with them their entire life.
Why did Christ come as a baby at Christmas? To save us from our sins. He came to bring the world His mercy. We have a duty and a serious obligation to instill this fundamental aspect of our faith in our children.
The best thing you can give your children this year, (and it’s free!) is to take them to confession sometime over the next 10 days. I have included information on various times for confession in parishes below. If you cannot make one of those times, call your parish priest and ask to make an appointment or simply ask them after Mass.
Show your children through your own example, what Christ has come to offer us. Don’t let this great gift go unopened.
Pray for my Johnny and his passions. He has a good heart and I take him often to the Divine Physician, so I have every hope for him.
God bless you and your family. JMJ
Some Confession Times In Cincinnati Area before Christmas
St. Cecilia, Oakley: Immediately following all Masses. Daily Masses at 9am. Confession usually around 9:30. Also available after Sunday Masses
Guardian Angels: Saturday December 17 3-4pm
St. Xavier (downtown): Monday-Saturday 11-12 or by appointment 721-4045