Service of Reconciliation

The First Reading of the Third Sunday of Lent (Year B) tells the story of the giving of the ten commandments to Moses. Invite the Liturgy Group to put together a reconciliation service based on Exodus 20:1-17 or Matthew 19:16-26. Encourage them to involve people of all ages, if possible, in the preparation process so that the gifts of the wider community are used in the service of the liturgy. Some of the ideas in this service were suggested
by the First Year Liturgy Students of the Mater Dei Institute (Dublin).

Extend the invitation to the service beyond those regularly attending church. Use local newspapers, parish website, and an attractive mail shot to draw the event to people’s attention. Hand out invitation cards at the local supermarkets, pubs and sporting events. A large eye-catching poster on the church gate or notice board may draw others in.

Keep the setting simple and uncluttered. A visual of the Two Slabs of Commandments placed in the sanctuary may be enough. These can be carried in the opening procession or be in place as people gather.

 Participation Sheet
Draw up a clear order of service with relevant explanations and words for participation in prayers and songs. The distribution of the sheet will be part of the ministry of welcome on the occasion.

 Gathering Song
Because of the focus on the law Marty Haugen’s setting of Psalm 18 (GIA) would suit with the refrain – Lord you have the words of everlasting life.

Welcome and Opening Prayer
A representative of the planning group could offer words of welcome followed by the invitation to prayer from the celebrant.

 Word of God
One reading of either Exodus 20:1-7 or Matthew 19:16-26 will be adequate. A short reflection would follow or an extended examination of conscience drawn from some of the ideas below:

Examination of Conscience – The Ten Commandments

1st        Are celebrities the new Gods of our time?

What is a celebrity but another human being with a particular gift that makes them stand out from others. Many of them get paid a great deal of money for simply doing their job. Footballers, Filmstars, Pop Idols and the very rich  are the ‘darlings’ of the media filling column inches and air time with their life styles and possessions. Mere mortals can feel inadequate as we compare our lives with theirs. When the glow of celebrity fades we find that they too are only human with the same faults as ourselves. On the other hand, we believe that our God can makes us feel good about ourselves extending love and compassion indiscriminately. We lay out the ‘red carpet’ for our God when we make time for prayer and reflection so that he can make us feel special – a celebrity in our own right. Let’s enjoy those who have special gifts to entertain us but don’t make Gods of them. It is not fair to them and devalues the one constant God in our lives.

Picture Cars, Homes and Celebrities with candles lit before them.

 2nd        Oh My God

‘Oh my God’ is a much used expression of our time especially for those fluent in ‘Dart speak’. It’s poorer relation ‘Jaysus’ is as common as ever. We sell ourselves short when we use the name of Jesus like a swear word. It would be great to think that the Lord is always in our minds and on or lips but a swearbox full to the brim tells its own story.

Picture Swearbox brimming over

 3rd        Did Sunday trading kill off the observance of the Lord’s Day?

Sabbath is about taking a break from everyday activities to refresh and renew yourself for the week ahead. It is about taking time for family and friends to build up relationships and to look after and visit those who need our care. The wide availability of celebrations of the Eucharist from Saturday evening to Sunday evening means that we can bring all of these activities together in the context of prayer and thanksgiving with the extended family that is the church.  If we make an effort Sunday trading does not really make such a difference?

Picture Busy shopping mall alongside one of empty church.

 4th        Spitting Image

We often say that someone is the spitting image of their father or mother. Children do not always reflect their parents when it comes to values and principles. A mature adult needs to make decisions for themselves while at the same time considering the feelings of their parents. We honour and respect our parents when we treat them with dignity and care when they are most vulnerable through old age or sickness as they did for us in our tender years.

Picture  Family group at table

 5th        Is death by a thousand cuts the modern form of killing?

In this world we don’t need bullets or blades to kill someone inside. Even something as simple as exclusion can make a person’s soul die a little. Harsh words, cyber bullying and mental torment are some of the ways in which we can squeeze the life out of another.

Why do so many die by suicide in our society?

How do we contribute to this problem by our insensitivity to difference, our failure to reassure the needy or our preoccupation with ourselves.

Why are the numbers who die in traffic accidents so high?

Are we guilty of endangering others by our speeding, our use of alcohol and other drugs or by carelessness as pedestrians.

Why is life so cheap?

The murder rate in Ireland is staggering. When we hear of a gangland killing do we think of the saying ‘those who live by the sword die by the sword’ or are we sad at the unnecessary loss of another life.

Picture    Two Red Roses – one in full bloom the other withering.

 6th        Breach of Promise

It is rare to hear of a court case for breach of promise when one or other party backs out of an engagement to marry. It is much more common to hear of individuals failing to live up to their marriage vows. Committing adultery is about cheating on someone to whom we have given a promise – its as simple as that. Apart from making a new start in Confession there is ACCORD.

Picture  The Accord Logo

 7th        Stealing Today

We limit our understanding of this commandment when we think only of the burglar breaking into someone’s house. Stealing has many other forms. We steal when we make a false insurance claim, when we evade paying our due taxes, when we misuse the property of our employer or take materials home with us. The possibilities are limitless so let your mind free to think up other ways of stealing.

Picture  A Tax or Social Welfare Form

 8th        False Witness

Good names are easily taken by innuendo or inference. A story is told about a man who wanted to make up for the false stories he had told about another. He was told to go the beach and pick up all the grains of sand. He knew that this would be impossible just as his mentor did. When we take someone else’s good name or character it is very hard to restore it.

Picture  A Desert or Beach

 9th        Roving Eye Syndrome

The grass is always greener on the other side. When we don’t respect commitment in relationships we have no difficulty in  moving in on someone else’s. When our obsession with another also involves a breakdown in a relationship that we are involved in the tangled web traps everyone concerned. We can all understand the power of attraction and the unhappiness of a poor relationship. This commandment is about not giving free range to the roving eye.

Picture A Green Hill in the distance

10th      Green Eyed Monster

The Green Eyed Monster suffers from Roving Eye Syndrome only he is not interested in people. It seems the more we have in our society the more we want.

Picture   Picture of a shanty town alongside a modern city estate

Invitation to Confession

A period of silence is observed after the examination of conscience. All stand for the final prayers of preparation.
Lord Jesus, you came to redeem us and not to condemn us
Lord Have Mercy/A Thiarna Déan Trócaire/Kyrie Eleison

Lord Jesus, you draw us back from exile with your forgiving love
Christ Have Mercy/A Chríost Déan Trócaire/Christe Eleison

Lord Jesus, you call us out of darkness into the light of your mercy
Lord Have Mercy/A Thiarna Déan Trócaire/Kyrie Eleison

Act of Sorrow

The act of contrition is then said together – the one chosen for the service might be printed on the participation sheet.

Confession and Absolution

Let music and prayer alternate during this part of the service as they encourage participation and allow some privacy of conversation.

Concluding Rites

The Lord’s Prayer could bring the assembly together once more in a spirit of communion and solidarity.


Several options could be offered to the assembly by way of penance:

  • Ask people to give way to every second driver who asks
  • Encourage people to write down on a card their own good points and those of others they don’t get on with and to keep it somewhere accessible.
  • Suggest that people spend some time each Sunday with someone who is lonely

 Final Prayer

Baskets of seeds are passed through the assembly and people are invited to take one home and plant it as a sign of commitment to turn over a new leaf. People are sometimes despondent as they seem to be confessing the same sins all the time. Archbishop Oscar Romero, who gave his life in the service of justice and his people in El Salvador offers us encouragement when we think that we are getting no where:

‘We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
Nothing we do is complete…
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water the seeds already planted,
Knowing that they hold future promise