My blog this week creates the opportunity for us to practice the spiritual discipline of examen. The word “examen” may be new, but the practice is rather ancient. St. Ignatius of Loyola is credited with introducing the examination of conscience to the Christian community.
Know the Joy of Coming Home
An Examination of Conscience for Advent
Airports, train stations, and bus terminals can be impersonal and even drab places. At this time of year, though, they are settings for joyful meetings that can bring a tear to a bystander’s eye.
Little children run to greet Grandma and Grandpa with a hug and a kiss. Bouquets appear as couples are reunited. Tears of glad relief greet a beloved family member, home on leave from military service.
Why are reunion scenes so moving? Isn’t it because, deep within us, they bear witness to our longing and appreciation for relationships that bring us joy? God created us to thrive and delight in intimacy and community, in loving and being loved. And he created us to know these good gifts, first of all, in our relationship with him!
This is the “good news of great joy” that the angel announced to shepherds on the night that changed history (Luke 2:10). God loved us so much that he sent his only Son to lead us home, by the power of his Holy Spirit. Because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, there is nothing to prevent us from coming into the family circle of God’s own life.
This Advent, the Father is inviting you to come home to him. He wants you to know the joy that never fails—even in times of trial, even when human relationships distress or disappoint. He is ready to remove every barrier, big or small, to your relationship with him. And so he invites you to come to him in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you prepare for this encounter with the God who loves you so much. You can use the following examination of conscience as a starting point. Take your time to reflect on the questions and Scripture passages. Believe that the “good news of great joy” really is for you.
If you haven’t discovered it already, you’ll see that the confessional—like the airport—can be a scene of joyful meeting, too.
“I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart… I will delight and rejoice in you.” (Psalm 9:2, 3)
Am I loving and serving God with my heart, mind, and strength? Or have I become the servant of something else?
Have I given priority to God on Sundays and holy days by attending Mass and making a special effort to seek him?
Do I give Jesus a say in the way I spend my time, money, and other resources? Am I using these gifts to build his kingdom?
“Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
Have I been faithful to prayer and Scripture reading, opening myself to God’s love and direction every day?
Have I allowed myself to slide into sinful habits out of boredom, inattention, laziness, or frustration?
What trials and difficulties are causing me the most pain right now? Am I keeping faith and trust in God and his promises?
“To practice justice is a joy for the just.” (Proverbs 21:15)
How am I working for the coming of Christ’s kingdom of justice and peace?
Is Jesus calling me to take a stand against some particular injustice? Have I sought his guidance about how to respond?
Have I stolen anything or cheated on my income taxes? Do I need to make restitution?
How have I helped care for the poor, less fortunate, sick, and suffering?
“Complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart.” (Philippians 2:2)
How am I doing in my relationships with the people God is calling me to love and serve: family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, parishioners? Am I treating them with respect and compassion?
Are there ways in which my words, attitudes, or actions have caused disunity in my relationships?
Am I harboring any anger, resentment, or hatred against someone? Is there anyone I need to forgive? Is there anyone whose forgiveness I need to ask?
“Your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you… Therefore, glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20)
Do I treat my body with respect, or have I abused it through the willful misuse of drugs, alcohol, or food?
Am I following Jesus’ teachings on sexual morality? Do I indulge in lustful thoughts and sexual fantasies? Have I committed sins of impurity?
Have I opened myself to unhealthy media influences that influence the way I think, the words I use, or the choices I make?
Holy Spirit, help me to examine my heart. Lead me to yourself and to the joy that no one can take away!