17 December 2017

Alessandro Allori’s “The Preaching of St. John the Baptist”. Source: wga.hu.

     “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

     These words from Jesus seem insurmountably impossible to achieve. How is perfection possible in this life? Indeed, His words are impossible to attain—on our own. However, we are not on our own. We are not left as orphans. Jesus Himself promised that He would send the Holy Spirit so that we could live as the adopted sons and daughters of God the Father. Therefore, by relying on the Holy Spirit’s inspirations and daily guidance, we are able to achieve precisely what Jesus commanded us to live as His very friends. 

     To live properly as God’s own adopted children, we acknowledge that we are in humble need to be obedient to Him every day. Our age unfortunately is one where many people like to pretend that they are perfect and there is no sin—only “mistakes.” A sin is a deliberate turning away from God’s life as He has revealed for our own good in the mistaken belief that we can follow the polluted culture in imitating much of its poison and tediously repeats the same tired mantra of, “Think for yourself because you are empowered.” The only thing we are empowered to do is to get on our knees and ask for the grace of humility to follow God obediently every day. This is exactly what the greatest person who was ever created did: our Blessed Mother. This worked out quite well for her. It will work perfectly for us, too—for those who have the humility to admit that we need God and not our selfish ego to carry us each day.

     To move us along the road of perfection in this Advent season, the Church gives us the holy sacrament of Confession to come before God with a clean and clear conscience as we celebrate the birth of our Redeemer, our Savior, and our Brother. To aid our advance in the spiritual life, the following Examination of Conscience is provided for our Confession before Christmas Day:

  1. How important is God in my life? Do I show Him importance by going to Mass every Sunday and holyday of obligation as He commands us? Do I pray each day, talking to Him as friends talk to one another? Do I believe in superstition, such as horoscopes, Ouija boards, and tarot cards, etc. Have I received Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin? Have I arrived late to Mass and deliberately left early because other things were more important in my life? Is Mass and my relationship with God just an “obligation” that I have to fulfill? Are weekend activities more important than God? Do I respect God’s name as holy and not as a curse or swear word in anger or in imitation of other people?
  2. How much respect do I show others—especially when I don’t necessarily agree with them? Do I insist on my own will? If I don’t get my way, do I show my unhappiness by arguing, having a tantrum, acting spiteful, or refusing to speak to them for some time? Do I contribute to the peacefulness in my house, or do I show my moodiness when things don’t go my way? Am I mean to my family, friends, coworkers, schoolmates, or teammates? Do I physically fight with them, speak badly to them (or about them), or give them bad examples that they may imitate? Do I show respect to those in legitimate authority over me: parents, bosses, teachers, coaches, etc.?
  3. Do I show respect for my body—a temple of God, the Holy Spirit? Am I mean-spirited, ready to fight or argue? Have I used hard drugs or alcohol? Do I keep my mind pure and holy with the things that I read, what I watch on TV, and Internet sites that I visit, particularly regarding sexually explicit material? Does my speech reflect purity and holiness in jokes, the way that I talk about others, or the stories that I tell? Do I listen to music or play video games that degrade other people, thinking that it is innocent entertainment? Have I engaged in sexual activity (alone or with others), which is reserved only within the sacrament of Marriage?
  4. Have I lied? Have I spread stories about others, whether they were true or not true, that I knew would hurt the reputation of someone else? Do I take pleasure when someone else gets into trouble, especially if I think that they “deserve” it? Am I jealous of other people, their talents, or their possessions? Have I refused forgiveness to others and held grudges (either family members or friends)? Have I been so proud that I refused to ask for forgiveness with my family or friends or God? Have I made fun of others to ridicule them?
  5. Do I take care of my things and the property of others? Have I stolen? Have I cheated at games, on tests, or in sports? How willing am I to help someone in need or someone who does not have as much as I have been given?
  6. What is keeping me from being the person that Jesus wants me to become? Do I spend time with Him? Are my friends good and holy? Do I go along with them when I know something is wrong because I don’t want to be excluded? Do I “go along with the crowd” when I know it’s wrong? Would Jesus approve of my choices, my words, and my attitude with others and with Him? How willing am I to follow Jesus each day?

     May you have a most blessed and holy week!

     Fr. Shawn William Cutler

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