Regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation is an important component of a healthy spiritual life, but along with it I would also encourage you to make a daily examination of conscience, which the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes as a “prayerful self-reflection on our works and deeds in the light of the Gospel to determine how we may have sinned against God. The reception of the Sacrament of Penance ought to be prepared for by such an examination of conscience.”
Each of us makes many decisions each day. Where is God in these choices? Do we consciously try to ascertain God’s will before we speak or act? Or do we not really care, but want to do only what we think is best for us, regardless if we think it is sinful? I greatly recommend Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s recommendation of taking an inventory or “exam” before we sleep at night.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Ten Commandments and how we can do a self-examination daily.
1. “I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have strange gods before Me.”
We may recall the story of Abraham and his son Isaac. Abraham was called to sacrifice his only son and was prepared to do so until an angel told him to stop. God wanted to make sure that He was the priority in his and our lives!
Matthew 6:33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.”
Ask yourself if you put God first or are material things—money, pleasure, power—the “gods” you put first instead? To what extent do you believe and participate in anything that is New Age, horoscopes, fortune-telling or any other superstition or aspect of the Occult? Do I associate with anti-Catholic groups such as the Freemasons?
2. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
So many people use the name of God and Jesus Christ when they are angry or surprised. This can be blasphemy.
Have I committed sacrilege by showing disrespect to the church, or holy objects such as the crucifix or rosary? How respectful am I to the pope, bishops, priests and religious? Have I committed a mortal sin of sacrilege by going to Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin (without first going to confession)? Do I fast one hour before Communion? Do I fast during Lent? Did I neglect my Easter duty to receive Holy Communion at least once a year during Easter time? Do I share my time, talent and treasure with others and the poor?
“3. Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.”
Did I miss Mass on any Sunday or holy day of obligation without a serious reason, such as being sick? Do I show up late or leave Mass early? Am I attentive during Mass? Do I honor Sunday or treat it as another work day? To what extent do I give of my resources to help the Church or those ministries that I am called to support?
4. “Honor thy father and mother.”
What kind of example do I make by how I honor or have honored my own parents? Do I set a bad example of how I honor my faith? To what extent do I teach my children the importance of faith and following the teachings of the Catholic Church? Do I show disrespect for those in authority? Have I taught my children moral values?
For children, to what extent have I been disrespectful to my parents? Am I obedient in what I am being told by those in authority such as parents, grandparents, teachers and priests? Do I help with the house and other responsibilities for the family?
5. “Thou shall not kill.”
Do I support, or have I had, an abortion? Do I realize that I cannot be passive about my support for defending life at every stage? Have I been a participant in or support euthanasia for those who are sick or elderly? Have I committed any acts of violence or abuse, whether it is physical, sexual, emotional or verbal? Have I done any reckless driving of any kind? Have I driven under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Do I show contempt for my own body? Do I take care of my health, both physical and mental? To what extent do I hold grudges and forgive those who have hurt me? Am I grateful for others and the gifts I have received from the Lord? Do I tear down people or build them up? Am I prejudiced against people because of their race, language, ethnic or religious background?
6. “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”
Do I look at others with lust in my heart? Do I long to have sex outside of marriage? Do I lust for things I don’t have? Have I had any attraction to people that are not leading me closer to Christ? Have I had sexual relations outside of marriage? Have I masturbated? Have I viewed pornographic materials in print or online, engaged in PhoneSex, or gone to massage parlors or adult book stores? Have I used artificial contraception? Have I avoided the near occasions of sin with persons, places or things which would tempt me or harm my chastity? Do I entertain impure thoughts?
7. “Thou shall not steal.”
Do I cheat on my taxes, steal from my place of employment or practice dishonesty in any of my personal or business dealings? Do I lie, cheat or steal in anything I say or do? Have I borrowed something and not returned it? Do I use work materials for my personal use at home without permission of my employer? Have I been paid for work by my employer that I did not do?
8. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”
Do I gossip? Do I speak of others negatively behind their backs? Have I told a lie to protect myself and deceive others? Have I attempted to harm or ruin someone’s reputation? Do I spread rumors which may hurt others? Do I care if the rumors are true? Have I sworn an oath falsely? Do I love to spread bad news against my enemies?
“9. “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife.”
Have I looked or lusted in my heart at someone else’s spouse? Do I flirt with the opposite sex inappropriately? Do I lust for what I do not have?
“10. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.”
Have I ever cheated anyone of their goods or services? Did I knowingly deceive someone in business or in my personal life? Have I committed fraud or shown disrespect or contempt for other people’s property? Have I done any type of vandalism? Am I envious of the success of others or the material things they have obtained? Am I greedy and do I want more and more things? Do I let my material desire be greater than my desire to please God or my family? Do I desire the things of this world more than I desire obtaining virtue and spiritual blessings and grace?
Please take time to daily examine your thoughts and actions. It will help you identify and root out vice in your life, and better prepare you for a worthy reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.