In preparation for the sacrament of penance and reconciliation, most of us use an examination of conscience inspired by the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament. The Ten Commandments offer a natural structure by which we can thoroughly examine our hearts, but what are some alternative sources for examining our conscience using the New Testament? Are the Ten Commandments the only format by which we can prepare for the sacrament?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church highlights the Ten Commandments as an important resource to use in an examination of conscience, but it cites others from the New Testament as well:
“The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the Ten Commandments, the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic Letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings.” (CCC, 1454)
The next time you prepare your students to make a good confession, consider using the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10), the Greatest Commandments (Matthew 22:37-40), or St. Paul’s famous thoughts on love in his letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:4-6) as an alternative to the examination of conscience using the Ten Commandments.
A BEATITUDES EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
- Blessed are poor in spirit: Do I put my possessions before God, my family, or my friends?
- Blessed are they who mourn: Am I a good friend to those who are sad?
- Blessed are the meek: Have I disobeyed my parents, teachers, coaches, or God? Have I been gentle and kind towards others?
- Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness: Do I sincerely want to do God’s will, or have I done only what I want to do instead?
- Blessed are the merciful: Have I forgiven those who have wronged me?
- Blessed are the clean of heart: Have I been open to others, or am I hiding something inside of me? What have I done that causes me to feel guilty?
- Blessed are the peacemakers: When others argue or fight, have I tried to prevent it or end it?
- Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness: Am I afraid to do what is right because of what others will think of me?
THE GREATEST COMMANDMENTS EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE
When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, he summarized the Ten Commandments with just two precepts: love for God and love for one’s neighbor.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
- Have I placed more importance on material things than God?
- Have I prayed to God every day?
- Have I said the names of “Jesus” and “God” in anger?
- Have I missed Mass on Sundays or on a holy day of obligation?
- Have I been on my best behavior during Mass or group prayer?
- Do I actively try to learn more about God and my faith?
- You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
- Have I loved myself, or do I dislike who I am?
- Am I thankful for the gifts that God has given me?
- Have I failed to help a friend in need?
- Have I been a good son or daughter?
- Am I jealous of others?
- Have I hurt anyone physically or emotionally?
- Do I treat my body with respect?
- Do I avoid watching videos or looking at pictures that disrespect the bodies of others?
- Have I stolen things from other people?
- Have I lied to others?
AN EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE BASED ON ST. PAUL’s THOUGHTS ON LOVE
- Love is patient: Have I been patient with my parents, siblings, friends, teachers, and coaches?
- Love is kind: Have I been kind toward others even when I don’t feel like it?
- Love is not jealous: Have I been happy for others when they succeed or receive praise?
- Love is not pompous: Have I talked about myself to try to make people like me?
- Love is not inflated: Do I do things for others for my own benefit or do I help others because they truly need my help?
- Love is not rude: Have I said mean words to my friends, family, teachers, or other adults? Have I said “please” and “thank you” as often as possible? Have I interrupted others when they are talking?
- Love does not seek its own interests: Have I been more interested helping myself than helping others?
- Love is not quick-tempered: Do I get angry with my family members or friends?
- Love does not brood over injury: Am I happy when others get hurt physically or emotionally?
- Love does not rejoice over wrongdoing: Have I praised others for breaking rules? Have I bragged to others about disobeying my parents or teachers?
A scriptural examination of conscience gives students a fresh perspective and helps them to make a good confession.
Jared Dees is the creator of TheReligionTeacher.com and author of 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator (Ave Maria Press, 2013).
This article was originally published in RTJ/Creative Catechist, February/March 2014
Image credit:Aaron Burden, Unsplash, 236415