A Thousand Generations
Catechesis At Home – A Thousand Generations
Third Sunday of Lent – Year B
God says, “For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for their fathers’ wickedness
on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation; but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20:5) [Emphasis added]
Does God give us a clue here when the end of time will happen? Is this when Jesus’ Second Coming will occur, when He will come to “judge the living and the dead.” (2 Timothy 4:1)
We know neither the time nor place (Matthew 25:13) when the Master will return. But as parents we tell our children when we will return. And though we may be delayed or get done sooner than we expect, there is some general understanding. Maybe we won’t be home by 5:30, for instance, but we can be expected in the evening.
How many years are a thousand generations? A generation is about 20 years, as a general rule. It is the time between one set of parents having children and those children having children. It averages to about twenty years throughout history, though it will be longer or shorter for each specific family.
This makes the math easy: A thousand generations in 20,000 years. That must mean we are close to the end of times and all of us getting to heaven, right?
Nope. The Ten Commandments were given to Moses somewhere between 1500 and 1400 BC. At the most, that’s 3500 years ago. That’s only 175 generations. Jesus and the Apostles were only 100 generations ago. Priests have practiced celibacy for only about 45 generations.[i] The American Revolution was only twelve generations ago. Saint Pope John Paul II reigned one generation ago. If we use this phrase in the Ten Commandments to figure out when The Judgment is coming, we still have 16,500 years to go…825 generations.[ii]
This is an opportunity for parents to be honest with the kids so the kids will be honest with themselves. Would we feel better if we knew Jesus was coming tomorrow, or would we feel better if He was coming in 16,000 years? Why? Does it matter when Time ends, or does it matter when OUR TIME ends?
We know Jesus is actually coming for us in one generation – when we die. This week’s activity is important and can be a bit daunting, so parents should be ready to help: Let’s pretend Jesus is asking us to audition for Heaven. Nobody gets to prepare, just like we don’t know when we are going to die. A parent should setup the smartphone or video camera and just press record. Each person has two minutes to make their case to Jesus on why they should get into heaven. You know your family dynamic, so you know if parents should go first or if kids should. Parents should be honest (HINT: Do we REALLY deserve Heaven?)
This should be difficult and introspective. The younger the child, the more innocent the resulting video will be. There will be boisterous and poignant claims of “I’ve been good” as if Jesus were Santa Claus, so parents should be well-prepared for their two minutes, so as to allow for and open up discussion when they are done.
The follow up activity is for parents: Heaven is not a checklist, and neither is our Final Judgment. We know that our good deeds are not weighed against our bad – one bad always outweighs all good.[iii]
Each night, at dinner or bedtime, or before prayers, parents should express a moment during the day when they dropped the ball – committed a venial sin – and want to make amends. Only forgiveness from The Lord offers this, which cleanses us and allows us to start over. If life were a checklist, we would all be doomed to Hell. And then remind the children that because God loves us, He sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to take the punishment that we deserved, and put it on Himself, and that’s why He died on the cross. Otherwise, no matter what good we did, it would not, justly, make up for or erase the bad. The bad still happened and needs to be paid for, which Jesus did. This is called Justification. To read more about it you can look in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraphs 1987-1995, and others.
Children need to know that EVERY sin is forgivable. So parents, in their revealing of this sin, should ask the children to forgive them for not being as good as they should be.
Parents should recognize that their example, how they live their relationship with God, is the only way they can teach their children. No amount of lecture, discussion, activity, or This Week’s Free Things, will substitute for the parents’ example. It is important for parents to admit, through their example, if not in actual word, that they are not perfect.
This process and approach will help the children know that they can come to the parent before and after making mistakes, to get the best guidance and forgiveness. And through the parents who seek the perfection that God calls them to, the children see God and how He works.
[i] The Church was over 1100 years old before it definitively took a stand in favor of celibacy in the twelfth century at the Second Lateran Council held in 1139, when a rule was approved forbidding priests to marry. In 1563, the Council of Trent reaffirmed the tradition of celibacy.
[ii] Please understand that we are not making a prophetic claim of when Jesus will return. Scholars tell us this is an example of hyperbole meant to show that God’s covenant will last forever – longer than Man can count, and it does not imply that God’s covenant ends at a certain time. It tells us that God’s mercy is endless for those who love Him. Remember, Paul tells us that “we know partially and we prophesy partially,” (1 Corinthians 13:9) so the best guess is that Jesus will be here today, and we need to be ready!
[iii] The Bible tells us that God is a good judge, and He will punish the guilty, not for what they did right, but for what they did wrong. In Genesis 18:25, Abraham said to God, “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Because God is a righteous and just Judge, He must ‘do what is right’ and punish all sin. Romans 3:23 says that we have all sinned. God hates sin and His Law says that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). It is precisely for this reason that we need Jesus, who paid those wages of death for our sins, and that we not take Him for granted but instead take advantage of frequent reconciliation and true repentance.
Was this helpful? How? Or was it a little too deep for the kids?
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