Examination of Conscience

Posted: June 13, 2013 in Uncategorized
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What temptations and struggles do you find yourself combating each day?  What areas do you need help on?  How can you grow away from your struggles?  The purpose of Examination of Conscience is to work to overcome your daily temptations: to grow in the virtues, to see the graces God is pouring into your life, to understand yourself a little better and continually work toward the point of remaining at peace through every annoyance, temptation, trial and persecution that you experience.

For many, the thought of Examination of Conscience is something we do a few minutes before we walk into the confessional.  This is good but it is even much more than that.  This is a time not just to think of all the wrong things you did and say, “Sorry” for them.  This is a time for you to look at the handful or so of the most difficult, and most repetitive temptations that have come to you this day.  Each temptation is a moment for you to strengthen yourself in the virtues.  It is a time for you to learn how to overcome them with great peace and joy deep inside and doing His will on the outside. 

Examination of Conscience is a talk with the Lord of how you can better overcome these temptations, so that in the future they will be easier to handle.  The Lord allows temptations in our lives. The temptations placed before us are to reveal that which is deep inside us. These are the virtues that God wishes to strengthen within our very soul. Dispelling and overcoming these temptations becomes an exercise in virtue.

Recognizing the way God was forming us in the past, opens us to the formation in the future. Temptations help us see the sensitive areas of our life that we need to be watchful about. The evil one has studied our human nature ‑ he will use this knowledge to distract, confuse and discourage us.

Remember, temptations are not sins. A temptation is often offered as something good, true, helpful, pleasurable, beautiful, etc., but soon it leads us to selfishness and greed. St. Padre Pio counseled, “That which comes from satan begins with calmness and ends in storm, indifference and apathy.”

In overcoming our struggles, temptations and persecutions we are perfected and will no longer be disturbed deep within.

Through the Examination of Conscience steps below we come to grow more sensitive to our own spirit, its longings, its powers, its Source; and you will develop an openness to receive the supports that God offers you.

  • Recall that you are in the Presence of God

No matter where you are, home, work, alone or in a crowd, God who made you is concerned for you.  The Holy Spirit, sent by Christ, will remind you that you are gifted to help bring creation to its fullness, to restore it to the Creator’s way.

Ask the Holy Spirit to let you look on all you see with love.  “Love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous or boastful, and it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way; ¼ it does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right¼ Love hopes all things.”  (1 Cor. 13)

  •  Give thanks to God for favors received

Pause and spend a moment looking at today’s gifts.  Be concrete!

Recall first the gifts that so often go un-noticed, the taste of jam on toast, the fragrance of a flower, the smile brought forth by a kind word, an act of patience that allowed someone to merge into traffic.  Take stock of what you received and gave.

Now look at your more permanent gifts that allow your participation in this day.  Recall your particular strengths in times of difficulty, your ability to hope in times of weakness, your sense of humor and your life of faith, your intelligence and health, your family and friends.  God the Creator gives these things to you to draw you into the fullness of life.  Pause in thanksgiving.

  •  Ask for awareness of the Holy Spirit’s Aid

Before exploring your own heart, ask to receive the Holy Spirit so that you can look upon your actions and motives with honesty and patience.  “When the Spirit of truth comes He will guide you into all truth.”  (John 16:13).  The Spirit gives a freedom to look upon yourself without condemnation and without complacency and thus be open to growth. 

  •  Now examine how you are living this day

Recalling the events of your day, explore the content of your actions.  Review the day, hour-by-hour, searching the events of your life.  Look through the hours to see your interaction with what was before you.   Ask what you were involved in and who you were with, and review your hopes and hesitations.   Many situations will show that your heart was divided, wavering between helping and disregarding, scoffing and encouraging, listening and ignoring, rebuking and forgiving, speaking and silence, neglecting and thanking.

See the opportunities for growth in faith, hope and charity and how you responded.  What moved you to act as you did?  See where Christ entered your decision and where you might have refused His influence.  “Test yourselves,” St. Paul urges, “to see whether you are living in faith; examine yourselves.  Perhaps you yourselves do not realize that Jesus Christ is in you.” (1 Cor.)

Now, as you pray, Christ’s Spirit will help you know His presence and concern.  As you daily and prayerfully explore the mystery of yourself in the midst of your actions you will grow more familiar with your spirit.  You will come to know that Christ is with you.  Christ will continually invite you to love your neighbor as yourself and strengthen you to do this. 

  • Pray words of reconciliation and resolve

Now, having reviewed this day of your life, look upon yourself with compassion and see your need for God and try to realize God’s manifestations of concern for you.  Express sorrow for sin, and especially ask forgiveness for the times you resisted God’s light today.  Give thanks for grace and especially praise God for the times you responded in ways that allowed you to better see God’s life.  In these acts of sorrow and gratitude, you grow in knowledge of God’s gentle labor for you.  “As the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in mine.” (Jer. 18:6)

A Final Reflection

Growth in friendship and intimacy need time and constant attention.  Try giving 10 minutes daily to this examination.  Cover all five points with a freedom to spend more time on one point than another as the Spirit moves you.

Notice how you grow in appreciation for the variety of vocations – marriage, single, priesthood and religious life among the people of God.  Pray that as fathers all hear God’s call and respond generously to their vocation. “Thy kingdom come, thy Will be done of earth.”

Finally, it is absolutely necessary that confession, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, becomes regular in our lives.  So many graces are poured upon us in this sacrament.  But you never understand what this means unless you go.  The best means of understanding the treasure chest of love and graces that Jesus gives us in confession is to confess. 

Go to confession.  The only way to combat the devil’s tools of fear and shame is to combat them with prayer and confession.  Focus on the goodness of God and His mercy.  A repentant sinner brings Joy to God the Father, as in the Prodigal Son.  In the story of the Prodigal Son, the Father saw his son coming and ran out to greet him.  Jesus is running out to greet you, to forgive you, to bring you in to the joy of the Father.  The joy there is in the repentant man who confesses his sins, from his heart, holding nothing back, and who hears the sentence of the priest, the confessor say, “I absolve thee, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; go in peace, and sin no more.”

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