Examination of Conscience

by Fr. Larry Tan, SDB

God has given us the sacrament of Penance so troubled sinners might meet with faith the forgiving Jesus Christ and walk away in Peace.

The stronger our faith, the clearer we view our sins, the more honestly we confess them, the greater our desire to improve, the deeper will be the inner joy and personal freedom we experience on those occasions.

There are five steps which surround and make possible a peaceful meeting with the Lord of mercy.

  1. Prayer for Light and Courage
    We begin by a brief prayer asking God to help us believe in his mercy, to see our sins just as they are, to confess them honestly despite the pain that involves, to experience his peace, and to change our future lives.
  2. God's Good Words About Forgiveness
    The bible is filled with stories and teachings about God's limitless mercy, love and forgiveness. Read now one or a few of the selections below and reflect for several moments upon them.
    1. Matthew 9:9-13 Jesus' concern for Sinners
    2. Luke 5:17-26 Christ forgives and cures the Paralytic
    3. Luke 7:36-50 The Lord and a Penitent Woman
    4. Luke 15:1-7 A Story of the Lost Sheep
    5. Luke 15:8-10 The Misplaced Silver Coin
  3. A Look Into the Heart
    This step requires a period of reflection sufficient for you to look at the past (How long since you last received the sacrament?) and to search out your sins over that period.
    This reflective look at the past should be honest, down to earth, painful but healthy and healing. Don't spend too long or dig too deeply; yet don't play games either or avoid coming to grips with what you know was wrong in the past.

  4. The Confession of Sin
    The actual confession of sin ideally follows. However, the words you use and the way you say them are of secondary concern. It is the SORROW for sin and the change of heart which really matter.
    Should you feel nervious or become forgetful, simply tell the confessor and ask for his help.
  5. Penances for the Past and for the Future
    The confessor imposes upon you a penance or satisfaction for your sins as the final step in this sacrament of reconciliation. Designed to repair the harm done and to heal the wounds caused by these misdeeds, it is also intended to help you improve in the days ahead.