A person should ever begin with a good examination of conscience. We need to hold up our lives to the pattern of life God has exposed for us to live. For example, we take time to reflect on the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes, the maxims of the Church and the virtues of prudence, fortitude, temperance and justice.
The examination of conscience is like stepping back and looking at the picture of one’s life in comparison to the masterpiece of life-time revealed by God. Remember when we were children, we used to trace pictures. Drawing helped us learn to draw. We would take a piece of plain article, maintained it over the original video and then threw it up to the window. The sun would enable us to draw the original illustration onto our blank sheet of paper. Periodically, we had to stop and step back to see if our paper had slipped and was out of kilter with the original or if we had depart from the lines.
In a similar way, as we live our lives, we are tracing them in accord with God’s pattern of life-time. In examining our consciences, we step back and frankly assess how well we fit God’s pattern and to stay here within His borders. At this time, we reflect on the progress we have shaped since our last creed in dealing with helplessness, faults, lures and past sins. Hopefully, we see improvement in our spiritual well-being.
However, when we have gone out of kilter or turn out of bounds with God’s masterpiece, we have sinned. We must recognise the venial sins — those lighter sins which weakened our relationship with the Lord — from the mortal sins — those sins which sever our relations with the Lord and “kill” the presence of sanctifying grace in our souls. Here we remember the words of Jesus,” Everyone who practices evil loathes the light; he does not come near it for panic his deeds is likely to be exposed. But he who acts in truth comes into the light, to made very clear that his deeds are done in God”( Jn 3:20 -2 1 ).
Given this examination of conscience, we have contrition for our sins. While we are sorry for sin because we do fear the flames of Hell and the loss of Heaven, and the just punishments of God, we are sorry most of all because our sins offend God whom we should adore above all things. The adore for God moves us to repent of sin and search reconciliation.
All of the great saints regularly examined their consciences and made frequent use of the Sacrament of Penance.( Even our Holy father, Pope John Paul II, professed his sins weekly, as did Mother Teresa .) One must ask,” Why? What sins did these saints perhaps devote ?” They adoration the Lord so much that even the slightest omission or committee moves them to creed. They do not crave even the slightest sin to separate them from the desire of God. For love of God, we too are sorry for our sins.
Sorrow for sin moves us to have a firm amendment not to sin again. We probably will sin again, but we try not to do so. We do not plan on leaving the confessional and perpetrating the same sins again.
We then admits our sins. When we participate the confessional in the majority faiths, we have the option of remaining anonymous or facing the priest. Whichever option a person opts, ever be borne in mind that whatever is said during the confession is held in secret by the priest.
Remember also that we confess to the priest for three reasons: First, the priest has the authorities concerned of the Apostles by virtue of his ordination. During the night of the resurrection, Jesus said,” Receive the Holy spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you maintain them bind, they are held bound”( Jn 20:22 -2 3 ). The priest is the minister of the sacrament acting in the person of Christ.
Second, he is a spiritual father. Just as we see a doctor for healing when we are physically sick, we realize a clergyman when our souls are sick and need healing.
Third, the priest represents the Church and the people we have sinned against. In the early days of the Church, people publicly professed sin at the beginning of Mass and were absolved. Much to our succor, for centuries now we have had private confession.
We proceed by making the sign of the Cross and saying,” Bless me father for I have sinned .” One could also simply begin,” In the name of the Father ….” We is necessary to commonwealth when we stimulated our last creed:” It has been( so long) since my last-place creed .”
We then confess our sins. We must be specific. Sometimes people say,” I has broken the sixth commandment ,” which incorporates everything from a lustful thought to rape and adultery. We do not are required to provide the full-blown story, merely the basics to enable the priest to help. We need to give some quantification — missing Mass formerly is different from several times, which is different from all the time. When we are finished confessing our sins, we state,” I am sorry for these and all of my sins .” With this information, the priest may lawyer us. He also designates a penance for the healing of the hurt caused by sin and the strengthened our spirits against future temptation. He then asks us to say an behave of remorse, which usually the traditional devotion:” O my God, I am warmly sorry for having offended Thee. I abhor all of my sins because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserves our all of my love. I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen .”
Finally, the priest lends absolution. Ponder the beautiful words:” God the Father of mercies, through the demise and resurrection of His Son, has reconciled the world to Himself and transmit the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy spirit .” The following formula emphasizes our merciful Heavenly Father, the saving whodunit of our Lord’s passion, demise, and resurrection, and the healing ministry of the Holy Spirit through the Church.
The priest then dismisses us, saying,” Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good ,” which is something we answer,” His mercy tolerates forever .”( Many priests may simply say,” May God bless you .”) We then leave the confessional to do the designated penance.
The sacrament of punishment is a beautiful sacrament through which we are reconciled to God, ourselves and our neighbors. Remember the words of St. Paul:” God is rich in mercy; because of His great adoration for us, He brought us to life with Christ when we were dead in sin”( Eph 2:4 ).
Editor’s note: Such articles originally appeared in the Arlington Catholic Herald and is reprinted here with kind permission.
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