© 2007 Lynanne Lasota. May not be reproduced without permission.
Lynanne Lasota has designed a course on the Sacrament of Baptism instructing parents and children. The mother of four children, she writes nationally from Tucson, Arizona.
We’ve all heard the word “grace.” We all know we receive it from God, most especially in the sacraments, but oh, how to explain it. I found this to be the most effective way to illustrate God’s gift of grace. This exercise can be done with people of any age, children or adults.
- Locate or have each person bring in a small gift box about 4" x 6" x 2" size.
- Go to your local Catholic bookstore or online Catholic supply store to purchase enough prayer cards or saint medals for each person.
- Purchase a bag of bite size candies, something not too messy or sticky.
- Place a prayer card or medal in each box with a couple pieces of candy.
- Carefully wrap each package in colorful paper. If you have chosen a specific gift for each person, be sure to put a gift label on the box.
- After your beginning prayers and everyone is seated quietly, place the gift in front of each person, instructing them not to touch or open the gift. Make it clear they can only look at it.
Here’s where the lesson begins. You will be asking several questions taking time to receive the responses. The responses to the questions will vary based on the age of the group. You may want to use a flip chart or wipe-off board and have an assistant list the responses.
You ask, “What happens if we leave this present on the table? Can you use it? Have you accepted it? How would the gift giver feel if you just left it here?”
You want everyone to understand the gift has not been accepted and cannot be used unless it is opened. Help them realize the gift giver may feel hurt, sad, and upset for taking time to choose, wrap, and give a gift that isn’t wanted.
Next, have each person unwrap the gift but do nothing else. Make it clear they cannot open the box.
Ask, “Can you use the gift now? Have you accepted the gift?”
Explain that the gift seemed to be accepted but it was never used.
Now, have everyone open the box and remove the gift. As they do this, listen to the initial unsolicited remarks and pay attention to facial expressions and moods. Write down what you observe. Then ask the following questions again listing the responses.
Ask, “How can you use this gift? How do you feel about receiving the gift now that you know what is inside? What emotions do you feel? Have you accepted the gift?”
Ask everyone to set down their prayer card or medal and they can enjoy the candy. While they are eating you can explain God gives each one of us a greater gift than this. God is constantly gifting us.
Ask, “Does anyone know what that gift is?”
Explain that the gift is the gift of grace. Grace is what helps us to be more like Jesus, to obey God, and to walk the straight and narrow path to the Kingdom of God. Without grace we can’t make it. It’s wonderful to know that all we have to do is accept the gift.
Now you can ask those gathered to name a time when they allowed God’s gift to sit on the table without accepting it.
You may receive responses like: “When I see my Mom reading the Bible instead of joining her I walk away. Someone asks me to pray with them and I pretend like I am. I act like I’m sick so as not to go to Mass and don’t receive the Eucharist.”
Say: “Okay, those were some great examples now let’s name some times we unwrapped the gift of grace but refused to truly accept it.”
Responses may include: “I go to Mass but don’t pay attention. I go to confession because the class is going but I don’t prepare. When I have time to read I never pick up the Bible, a saint book, or a prayer book. I need help with something and ask a friend but don’t bother to ask God.”
Say: “Finally, when do we accept God’s gift of grace? A good feeling may not always come with accepting His gift but times God does allow us to experience greater joy. When you accepted God’s gift of grace did you receive increased joy and peace?”
You should receive answers like going to Mass and sharing in communion, going to confession, saying prayers with my family, reciting a family rosary, reading the Bible, etc.
Explain: Some children may have stories of when they shared in the Eucharist. I’ve heard children say it felt like a big weight was lifted off their shoulders after celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation. One 8-year-old boy said his heart felt so happy one Sunday after sharing in Jesus in the Eucharist. I’m sure the children you teach will have wonderful stories to tell. For younger children, you may want them to draw a picture.
End the lesson by reading the story of the angel Gabriel visiting Mary. He greets her by saying, “Hail, Mary full of grace”(Luke 1:26-38). God chose to fill Mary’s soul with grace from the moment He created her. He wants us to accept His grace also. Challenge the students to look for small and large opportunities daily to accept God’s gift of grace. If they have a notebook, ask them to write down those times. Then you can spend a few minutes during the next class sharing the stories of when the students accepted God’s gift of grace.
Emphasize God wants to give each one of us the gift of grace often. All God asks from us is to take it, unwrap it, and accept it.