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Thomas Merton famously said, “In so far as [humans] are prepared to prefer their own will to God’s will, they can be said to hate God: for of course they cannot hate Him in Himself. But they hate Him in the Commandments which they violate. But God is our life: God’s will is our food, our meat, our life’s bread. To hate our life is to enter into death.”
You can live a holy life!
“What God commands He makes possible by grace,” says paragraph 2083 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
“Jesus says, ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.’ The fruit referred to in this saying is the holiness of a life made fruitful by union with Christ. When we believe in Jesus Christ, partake of His mysteries, and keep His commandments, the Savior Himself…becomes, through the Spirit, the living and interior rule of our activity” (para. 2074).
In other words, it is only when we have a growing relationship with the Lord Jesus that we are empowered to live more and more the way God commands us to. Jesus gives us His Holy Spirit to help us understand and obey the Father’s commands.
God’s laws were made for our benefit! Our obedience opens us to receive more of God: more of His love, His help, His comfort, His healing, etc. “The gift of the Commandments is the gift of God Himself” (para. 2059).
Any time we disobey God, we make our lives more difficult because we are turning away from love: “Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it” (para. 1850).
This is why it’s important to make a good examination of conscience. Use this Examination of Conscience prayerfully. Make note of the sins you’ve committed as they come to mind. Then reflect on how these sins have opposed love. Remember that God is a God of mercy. His mercy doesn’t give us permission to do anything we feel like doing. Rather, it gives us love even when we don’t deserve it.
As soon as possible, confess your sins and receive the extra graces that are available in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Once you’ve done this, you’re set free from the guilt of these sins (even though you might still need to undo the damage you’ve caused) and you never need to confess these sins again unless you recommit them. So forgive yourself and depend on the supernatural graces of the Sacrament that will help you improve in living a holy and loving life.
This Examination of Conscience is based on the Ten Commandments because, “Since they express man’s fundamental duties toward God and towards his neighbor, the Ten Commandments reveal, in their primordial content, grave obligations. They are fundamentally immutable, and they oblige always and everywhere. No one can dispense from them” (para. 2072).
It’s impossible to convert from every sinful tendency all at once, no matter how much you desire it. Let God transform you, but be patient with yourself. Purifying yourself is a process — sometimes a very long process. God loves you right now, and so should you!
To make copies of this for distribution, please go to Catholic Digital Resources, where there is also a youth version.
Warning: Do not send this Examination of Conscience to others because you think “they need it.” This is for you!
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© 2000 by Terry A. Modica
A printable version is available at the end.