Thursday, January 21, 2010

An Examination of Conscience

Without God man neither knows which way to go, nor even understands who he is. In the face of the enormous problems surrounding the development of peoples, which almost make us yield to discouragement, we find solace in the sayings of our Lord Jesus Christ, who teaches us: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:5) and then encourages us: “I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Mt 28:20).
Charity in Truth (Caritas in Veritate) (78) by Pope Benedict XVI

An Examination of Conscience Based on the Beatitudes
The best way to take the Gospel beatitudes seriously is to use them as a mirror for an examination of conscience that is truly “evangelical”. All of Scripture, says Saint James, is like a mirror into which the believer should gaze calmly and without haste in order to know what he or she is truly like (see James 1:23-5), but the beatitudes provide a unique mirror.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Am I poor in spirit, poor within, having abandoned everything to God? Am I free and detached from earthly goods? What does money mean to me? Do I seek to lead a sober and simple lifestyle that is fitting for someone who wants to bear witness to the gospel? Do I take to heart the problem of the terrible poverty that is not chosen but imosed on so many millions of my brothers and sisters?

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Do I consider affliction a misfortune and a punishment, as some people in the world do, or as an opportunity to be like Christ? What are the reasons when I am sad: the same as God’s or the same as the world’s? Do I seek to console others or only to be consoled myself? Do I know how to keep an adversity a secret between God and me, not talking about it every chance I get?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Am I meek? There is a violence of action but also a violence of speech and thought. Do I control anger outside of and within me? Am I kind and friendly to those around me?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Do I hunger and thirst for holiness? Do I strive for holiness, or am I at times satisfied with mediocrity and lukewarmness? Does the physical hunger of millions of people lead me to question my continual search for comfort, my middle-class lifestyle? Do I realize how much I and the world in which I live resemble the rich man who feasted daily?

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Am I merciful? When a brother, a sister or a coworker demonstrates a fault, do I react with judgment or with mercy? Jesus felt compassion for the crowds; do I? Have I at times been the servant who was forgiven but does not forgive others? How many times have I casually asked for and received the mercy of God for my sins without taking into account the price that Christ paid for me to receive it?

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Am I pure of heart? Are my intentions pure? Do I say yes and no as Jesus did? There is a purity of heart, a purity of lips, a purity of eyes, a purity of body: Do I seek to cultivate all these kinds of purity that are so necessary – especially to consecrated souls? The clearest opposite of purity of heart is hypocrisy. Whom do I seek to please by my actions: God or other people?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Am I a peacemaker? Do I bring peace to different sides? How do I behave when there are conflicts of opinion or conflicts of interest? Do I strive always to report only good things, positive words, and strive to let evil things, gossip and whatever might sow dissention, fall on deaf ears? Is the peace of God in my heart, and if not, why not?

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Am I ready to suffer in silence for the gospel? How do I react when facing a wrong or an injury I have received? Do I participate intimately in the suffering of brothers and sisters who truly suffer for their faith or for social justice and freedom?
Beatitudes (Eight Steps to Happiness) by Raniero Cantalamessa

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