Reviewing the Role of an Examination of Conscience
Mar 12, 2017
During the Lenten Season, several extra opportunities are offered for us to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. After praying to the Holy Spirit for an awareness of where we need forgiveness in specific ways, we are encouraged to examine our consciences in preparation to receive this Sacrament of our Lord’s healing love.
There are various formats in which an examination of conscience can be expressed. Examining ourselves can be based upon looking at our lives in relation to the Ten Commandments, the Teachings of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount, the Golden Rule, the Two Great Commandments, the Precepts and Teachings of the Catholic Church and other formulations based upon these.
Each of the formats in which an examination of conscience is expressed assumes that we are relational creatures. We have been created to live in harmony within ourselves, with others, with the environment and with the Lord. We have an individual and communal identity. As individuals, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. According to our communal identity, we are members of the Body of Christ, the Church. Thus, we are called to please the Lord as individuals who belong to the Body of Christ.
The role of an examination of conscience is to point to specific directions in which we may have hurt the Lord, ourselves, others and the environment. The reason that specific attitudes, words, actions and omissions are sinful is because they hurt one or more of the basic relationships for which we have been created.
The reason that any examination of conscience is limited is due to the fact that we each are unique. Every one of us is offered expressions of God’s love that are unique. For the most part, we try to say yes to receive and to extend the offers of the Lord’s love that come our way. Sometimes, however, we say NO to what the Lord wants to give to us and do in and through us. In our own way, we either do or fail to do that which hurts our relationships with the Lord, with ourselves, with others and/or with the environment.
While in an examination of conscience the Lord offers to all of us a common standard by which to measure ourselves in the light of His redeeming love, no one can ever sin in the same way as can you or I. This is because each of us are offered opportunities to receive and to respond to God’s love that are unique. No one has ever or will ever walk in your shoes or in mine. There is no written examination of conscience that can cover all of the situations in which, as individuals, we are offered opportunities to receive and to respond to the Lord’s love. Thus, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God’s healing love is tailor-made for each of us.
Let’s be grateful for specific forms of an examination of conscience that are offered to us. They remind us of the communal nature of our Faith. They also point to basic directions in which we are called and equipped to live out our faith in the Lord. As we receive the Lord’s forgiveness as this is offered in a unique way in the Sacrament of Reconciliation for specific ways in which we have hurt basic relationships, we are empowered to allow Christ to influence all of the moral choices that come our way as individuals on our journey with one another to the fullness of life for which the Lord has redeemed us.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Fr. Nelson Beaver – Pastor