Monday, 12 December 2011

Cut It Off And Throw It Away

If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.[1]

As we prepare for Christmas, it has become quite common to hear people reminding us to stop and focus on the real meaning of Christmas. Accordingly, we are frequently reminded to consider the needs of those who are less fortunate than ourselves during this festive season. Yet, nevertheless, this period leading up to Christmas is still frequently referred to as the festive season and everything in society serves to ensure that this period is a time of joyful celebration.

What we tend to forget, however, is that Advent, this period leading to Christmas, is also the time during which we should seriously consider our preparation for the second coming of Christ. To what extent are we giving ourselves completely to doing the will of God?

It is not only about generously giving gifts of material goods and doing good deeds. It’s first and foremost about giving up those aspects of our lifestyle and our personal behaviour that blocks the achievement of personal holiness. It is also about adopting a focussed approach to engage more frequently in behaviours and a lifestyle that will lead to an increase in our personal holiness.

If our eye is causing us to sin, are we really prepared to “pluck it out and throw it away”, or to deal severely with the hand that leads us to sin by “cut(ting) it off and throw(ing) it away”, so that our life conforms completely to the will of God. Do we instead hold back because the thought of the hardship or inconvenience, that we will experience when we amend any particular area in our lives, is more daunting to us than the actual desire to achieve personal holiness? This is when we should realise that the achievement of personal holiness is a journey and not an overnight transformation or an instant fix.

What we need, to begin progressing towards the achievement of personal holiness, is to develop the daily habit of doing an “examination of conscience”. This we could do every night before we go to sleep. There are many leaflets and other guides available to help with the doing of a daily examination of conscience. Below is an “examination of conscience”, put together by Fr. John Hardon S.J., for daily use:

Do I make an honest effort to grow in the virtue of faith by daily mental prayer on the mysteries of the faith as revealed in the life of Jesus Christ?
Do I make at least a short act of faith every day?
Do I pray daily for an increase of faith?
Do I ever tempt God by relying on my own strength to cope with the trials in my life?
Do I unnecessarily read or listen to those who oppose or belittle what I know are truths of my Catholic faith?
What have I done today to externally profess my faith?
Have I allowed human respect to keep me from giving expression to my faith?
Do I make a serious effort to resolve difficulties that may arise about my faith?
Do I ever defend my faith, prudently and charitably, when someone says something contrary to what I know is to be believed?
Have I helped someone overcome a difficulty against the faith?

Do I immediately say a short prayer when I find myself getting discouraged?
Do I daily say a short act of hope?
Do I dwell on my worries instead of dismissing them from my mind?
Do I fail in the virtue of hope by my attachment to the things of this world?
Do I try to see God’s providence in everything that “happens” in my life?
Do I try to see everything from the viewpoint of eternity?
Am I confident that, with God’s grace, I will be saved?
Do I allow myself to worry about my past life and thus weaken my hope in God’s mercy?
Do I try to combine every fully deliberate action with at least a momentary prayer for divine help?
How often today have I complained, even internally?

Have I told God today that I love Him?
Do I tell Jesus that I love Him with my whole heart?
Do I take the occasion to tell God that I love Him whenever I experience something I naturally dislike?
Have I capitalized on the difficulties today to tell God that I love Him just because He sent me the trial or misunderstanding?
Do I see God’s love for me in allowing me to prove my love for Him in the crosses He sent me today?
Have I seen God’s grace to prove my love for Him in every person whom I met today?
Have I failed in charity by speaking unkindly about others?
Have I dwelt on what I considered someone’s unkindness toward me today?
Is there someone that I consciously avoid because I dislike the person?
Did I try to carry on a conversation today with someone who is difficult to talk to?
Have I been stubborn in asserting my own will?
How thoughtful have I been today in doing some small favour for someone?
Have I allowed my mood to prevent me from being thoughtful of others today?
Am I given to dwelling on other people’s weaknesses or faults?
Have I been cheerful today in my dealings with others?
Do I control my uncharitable thoughts as soon as they arise in my mind?
Did I pray for others today?
Have I written any letters today?
Have I controlled my emotions when someone irritated me?
Have I performed any sacrifice today for someone?

The next good habit to develop this Advent, following the habit of a daily "examination of conscience", would be Frequent Confession. This could be as frequently as weekly Confession, regardless of the fact that it may be for only venial sins. 

Frequent Confession is highly recommended by the Church, despite the erroneous belief, among some Catholics, that it is only necessary to go to Confession once a year.

Without being strictly necessary, confession of everyday faults (venial sins) is nevertheless strongly recommended by the Church. Indeed the regular confession of our venial sins helps us form our conscience, fight against evil tendencies, let ourselves be healed by Christ and progress in the life of the Spirit. By receiving more frequently through this sacrament the gift of the Father's mercy, we are spurred to be merciful as he is merciful.[2]

Through the Sacrament of Confession sanctifying grace is restored, in the case of mortal sins, and, even in the absence of mortal sins, we receive an increase in sanctifying grace when we confess our venial sins.

The Sacrament of Confession is for many Catholics an unappreciated and misunderstood Sacrament. The Sacrament of Confession leads us to an increase in the grace that we need to grow in personal holiness. It will lead, most certainly, to an increase in our knowledge and love of God and so we will find ourselves preparing daily for the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

[1] Matthew 5: 29 – 30 
[2] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1458

No comments:

Post a Comment