Padre Paul’s Ponderings: Growing in Holiness and Thinking “Outside the Box”

Last week at Mass, I mentioned the sacrament of confession, and how at times it can be easy to think of a few sins or the familiar battles we may have, but there may be other things that we aren’t fully aware of.

A quick point: when we go to confession, all sins are forgiven, even the things we aren’t thinking of. God’s love is never conditional.

But at the same time, both when we go to confession, and when we go to Mass as we prepare for Holy Communion, it’s a good idea to always be thinking about how we can become even better. Much like professional baseball players, currently at spring training, already know the game well and are the best in the world, they want to become even better. You and I should have that same hunger, and while we already do many things well, we can always do it even better.

With that in mind, I thought I’d share a brief examination of conscience based on a very familiar reading you may have had at your wedding. I use parts of this for our penance service (and it’s actually part of a 21 page document), and I thought you might find it helpful for Lent during your own prayer time. We say the word “love” all the time – but how do we live it out? The ministry of Jesus and His sacrifice for us all is the greatest love story ever told. So when we say we love God and one another, that truly has to be a way of life. The following reflections are a great way to grow in that over not just Lent, but over our lives.

The Law of Love: A Reflection Drawn from 1 Cor 13:4-6

“Love is PATIENT” (1 Cor 13:4).
Am I impatient?
Am I brusque?  Irritable?  Pushy?
Have I been edgy or abrupt?
Do I rush too much myself?
Do I drive too fast?
Do I have a habit of trying to get other people to speed up?
Have I been crabby when I have had to wait?

“Love is KIND” (1 Cor 13:4).
Have I been harsh, critical, or cruel?
Have I been mean-spirited?
Have I acted with bitterness or resentment?
Have I cut other people down?  Have I been uncharitable?

“Love is NOT JEALOUS” (1 Cor 13:4).
Am I envious of someone else’s good looks?
Do I find myself wishing I had someone else’s intelligence?
Am I jealous of somebody’s popularity?  Their abilities?  Their success?
Do I covet another person’s job?  Their money?  Their clothes?
Am I upset because everyone else gets all the breaks?

“Love is NOT POMPOUS” (1 Cor 13:4).
Do I strut around, thinking that I’m better than everyone else?
Have I been arrogant?  Egotistical?  Conceited?
Do I think I’m a star and everyone else is a loser?
Do I think that I’m special?
Do I think I deserve special treatment?
Do I believe that most others are “below me?”

“Love is NOT INFLATED” (1 Cor 13:4).
Am I proud?  Vain?  Self-centered?
Do I act “stuck up” sometimes?
Have I been a “show off?”
Do I think and act like I am better than I really am?

“Love is NEVER RUDE” (1 Cor 13:5).
Have I been impolite?  Boorish?
Do I interrupt?  Speak out of turn?
Do I dominate the conversation?  Talk too loud?
Have my table manners been lacking?
When I disapprove, do I roll my eyes?  Toss my head back?  Grunt or groan?

“Love does not SEEK ITS OWN INTERESTS” (1 Cor 13:5).
Do I always have to have things my way?
Have I been uncooperative?  Inconsiderate?  Inflexible?  Uncompromising?
Have I ignored someone else’s feelings?
Have I paid attention only to my own needs, while being inattentive to others?

“Love is NOT QUICK-TEMPERED” (1 Cor 13:5).
Do I fly off the handle easily?
Have I lost my temper?
Do I raise my voice with stinging criticism and sarcasm?
Have I taken things too personally?  Have I overreacted?
Do I make issues bigger than they really are?

“Love does NOT BROOD OVER INJURY” (1 Cor 13:5).
Am I harboring a resentment?
Have I been spending time mulling over how I have been mistreated?
Have I brought up an old injury over and over again?
Am I still punishing someone for the way the person hurt me long ago?

“Love rejoices in the TRUTH” (1 Cor 13:6).
Do I tell lies?
Have I twisted the facts to discredit someone?  Make someone look bad?
Have I made up stories to get out of trouble with my parents?  My spouse?
Do I cheat on tests or homework?  Do I falsify tax records?
Do I exaggerate so I will look better in other peoples’ estimation?

There are many other examinations of conscience you can find online. Here is a link to where I took this particular one from, but also where you can find several others that are quite helpful:

As we grow in love, confession is a great way to celebrate how much we are loved by God and receive the grace to grow in holiness. You can join us Monday night here at Saint Joseph’s for our parish penance service which starts at 6:30 p.m.

May God bless you on your Lenten journey!

Fr. Paul