Here are ideas for you to use in reflecting on the upcoming Sunday’s scriptures with your classes.
- Genesis 9:8-15
- 1 Peter 3:18-22
- Mark 1:12-15
“Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Lent is a time to say, “I’m sorry.”
Teaching for Primary Grades:
1. Since God is so ready to forgive, the children should be ready to receive that forgiveness. They can express their readiness by developing the habit of saying, “I’m sorry.” Prepare for the season of Lent with a ritual that reflects the sentiments of Ash Wednesday and this first Sunday of Lent. Choose symbols and symbolic actions that can help the children experience the Scripture mandate to “repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Examples: Express “turning away from sin” by making a large sign with the word “SIN” and using movement to have children physically turn away from the sign. Open the Bible to Jesus’ teachings and have the children make a deep bow to acknowledge faith and respect.)
2. Let children brainstorm a list of all the things for which they are sorry. Write these on the board. Use them in a litany of faults to which the class can respond, “I am sorry, Jesus.” Close with a song about forgiveness — perhaps “Always Ready to Forgive” by Carey Landry (available on A Wonderful Song of Joy CD).
Teaching for Intermediate Grades:
1. Talk about the beginning of Lent and Lenten resolutions. Connect the idea of making a resolution with Jesus’ urgent message to repent (today’s Gospel). When we express sorrow for mistakes and make an effort to do better, we do this because of love. We want to love God, ourselves, and other people more. God loves us by not holding our mistakes against us. Today’s first reading about Noah and the rainbow describes the symbol of God’s promise to continue to love us even when we mess up.
2. After talking about the rainbow in the story, divide the class into groups of four. Give each group a poster board and markers. Tell them to draw a large rainbow and to depict under the rainbow, using words and symbols, the various Lenten resolutions of children in the group. At the top of the poster, they can write: “God makes promises to us” and at the bottom: “We make promises to God.” Hang the posters around the classroom during Lent.
Teaching for Secondary Grades:
1. Begin with a reading of the Gospel. Then discuss the significance of both John the Baptist and Jesus preaching about repentance. Fresh from the desert where he had faced his own temptations, Jesus spoke about repentance as a way to prepare for God’s imminent kingdom. The Church, too, teaches us about preparing for Easter by observing a season of expressing sorrow for sin and acting to turn our lives away from things that distance us from God.
2. Plan a specific way to make Lent a time for repentance in the classroom. Place a printed sign saying “I’m sorry” on the prayer table, and provide a small box near the sign with an opening cut into the lid. Take time for quiet prayer, during which each student may write one example of something for which he or she wants to repent. When they feel ready, students may come forward to place their slips of paper into the box. Invite them to add to the box throughout Lent whenever they want to express sorrow for something. Remind them that true repentance always involves a resolution to change that behavior.
Sr. Karen Berry is a Joliet Franciscan, a former teacher of high school religion and director of family programs of Religious Education, and currently a teacher of adult religion classes in several parishes in Tucson, Arizona.