Steps to ease your conscience and care for your soul
Going to the doctor is something we all must do from time to time. As one gets older, it seems to be a more frequent activity. Our own self-awareness of problems can be a help to the doctor, whereas our lack of awareness can be a hindrance to our own healing. We may even deny we are ill.
The same is true for us in terms of our spiritual fitness and health. Unless we have a good grasp of ourselves – our tendencies, strengths and weaknesses, virtues and vices, patterns good and bad – we become less malleable and pliable, and more difficult to mold in the hands of God. We disable our Divine Physician from curing our illness, because we are not able to admit we need Him.
We all need Him. We do not save ourselves. Jesus saves us. A good remedy to our lack of self-knowledge is an examination of conscience. There is a tendency in all of us to want to look good, but that kind of personal dishonesty does nothing for us in terms of our spiritual growth. So, in an examination of conscience, we must pray for personal honesty and truth. During this Spiritual Fitness, I would like to lead you through an exam of conscience.
Try this at home – Repeat daily!
1 Before looking at our souls, we first must remember that God loves us. God loved us so much that He sent Jesus. And Jesus loved us so much, that He suffered and died on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven. In the context of love, we can be brave enough to take a good look at ourselves. Otherwise, we end up hiding in the brush like Adam and Eve did after they committed the first sin against God.
With that in mind, go someplace where you will not be distracted and disturbed – where you can be alone with God. Go into your closet if you have to! Now, close your eyes and believe the truth that God is with you. God is everywhere. There is no place you can go that God is not. You are with God who loves you. Read Psalm 139.
2 What is the greatest of all commandments? Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Matthew 22:37).
How have I loved God who loves me? How faithful have I been to God? Do I see that relationship as the most important in my life, or do I treat God as a second thought? Do I put God off into some corner of my life and forget Him? Do I presume upon His love for me? Do I presume upon His mercy, and not really feel how precious and weighty His gift of mercy is? Read Luke 7:36-48.
3 The Second Commandment is like the first. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39).
Think of all the relationships you have. How have you loved or not loved your family, relatives, friends, co-workers, and strangers you meet? Have you loved yourself, and treated yourself with respect? Have you kept the Ten Commandments and followed the teachings of Jesus Christ? Read Exodus chapter 20 and the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew, chapters 5-7.
At this point, honestly consider how your words, actions, or inactions have affected the people in your life. Have your actions allowed them to experience the love of Christ? What actions in particular are harmful?
4 If the examination has gone well, and you have allowed the Holy Spirit of God in, you may be feeling contrition and sorrow at this point. If you do, praise God for the gift of tears! Cry out to God for mercy.
Pray the following: “Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Pray this prayer slowly from your heart. Pray it a number of times. Read one of the penitential Psalms, 51 or 32.
Open your soul with its wounds to the healing rays of God’s mercy. God is light. Imagine yourself covered by the light of God. At this point in the examination, all your sins are exposed. Imagine yourself placing them into a big sack. You are carrying them on your back. Now, let Jesus take them from you. Let His hands take over the load. Feel Jesus pull the sack off your back and cast them far from you. He has cast them into the sea of oblivion and God remembers them no more.
5 Make a sacramental confession. When we are truly sorry for our sins, Jesus forgives us. Serious sins need special attention. God has given us the sacrament of reconciliation to heal the wounds of sin and to empower us with the grace of the Holy Spirit to live the life we are called to as God’s children.
6 Rejoice and praise God for His mercy. You have just died and rose to new life in Christ. You are preparing yourself the best way possible for Sunday Mass and the Easter celebrations!