Most Friday evenings, I lead a cell-group of teenagers in bible discussions as I accompany them on their faith formation to confirmation and beyond. I’ve been journeying with these kids for more than 2 years and confirmation was just around the corner – the coming week in fact!
The session on Friday 17 February was particularly memorable. We usually break bread over the Sunday Gospel reading and the reading on February 19 was Matthew 5:38-48. For the benefit of those who are not familiar with it, the main message of Matthew 5:38-48 was about turning the other cheek and of loving your enemy.
It is a such a deep and profound passage and challenging even for mature adults (myself included!) to grasp. How would one help 15 year olds who have generally grown up in largely peaceful circumstances and have not yet encountered deep anger or hatred understand what it means to love your enemies?
Yet, perhaps because they have not yet encountered the fierce strife that cause deep hurts, here is an opportunity to plant a seed in receptive and fertile minds that will hopefully take root, grow and serve them well into their adulthood? And all the more so given the significance of the kids receiving the sacrament of Confirmation the coming week.
The Holy Spirit provided as I was preparing and reflecting on the passage. So it was that I would go to the catechism session armed with a large bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (PBCs) and a video.
“Who likes Peanut Butter Cups?”, I asked the kids. Two hands shot up instantly and a few quizzical looks from those who have not encountered a PBC before. I picked one of the kids and gave her 1 PBC, then asked her what she planned to do with it.
“Eat it, of course”, she replied.
I passed her another PBC. Again, I asked her what she intends to do with both. A few expectant faces were looking at her now.
“Eat them both”, she chuckled.
I passed her yet another PBC. And again, I asked her what were her intentions.
This time, she passes 1 PBC to the kid sitting next to her (who was the other kid who had raised her hand when I asked who liked PBCs). This child was also her BFF.
To which, another kid who is also a good friend jokingly asked, “So does this mean she is your friend and I am your enemy?”
I then passed the whole jumbo bag of PBCs over and asked the volunteer what she is now going to do.
“Share them around with everyone of course!”
With that, I had the perfect example upon which to share (while everyone was enjoying their PBCs – an added bonus!) what it means to be a follower of Christ and a child of God in loving one’s enemy; and how that can seem impossible when we view it from our human limitations and miraculously become possible when we are aware of how fully God has given of his grace to us and that all we had to do was tap into that unending reservoir.
And I closed with this really beautiful video of Corrie Ten Boom, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps who went on to do what would be impossible, even by her own admission: to forgive a guard who was her tormentor at the camp.
This story doesn’t end here for me personally though. I can’t speak for the impact this session had on the kids though I did get positive feedback from some of the kids and their parents after. What I can say for myself is that the “lesson” was so profound, it is still “unpacking” richly for me even now as I am writing this blog. I have discovered that even as I had shared knowledge, I have richly received back knowledge many times over. And I have also realized in the process that I have truly forgiven my worst enemy (thus hitting a healing milestone without realizing it till now). For were that not the case, I could not have shared as richly as I was able to, as I would not have been ready to comprehend the meaning of what it means to love your enemy and in the process be feeling awashed and complete in God’s perfect love.
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