The Word Among Us

Advent 2012 Issue

Search Me, O God!

An Examination of Conscience for Advent

Search Me, O God!: An Examination of Conscience for Advent

Have you ever noticed how good we can be at noticing other people’s weaknesses, while still having a blind spot for our own? Fortunately, God is familiar with this tendency.

He knows that we often need an outside perspec­tive to help us see ourselves clearly. That’s why he created us to live as a community and not as individuals. It’s also why he has given us guide­lines like the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. They can help give us a glimpse into how we’re doing and what we may need to change. It’s also why there are so many prophets in the Scriptures. God called them to point out the peo­ple’s sins in the hope that they would repent and come back to him.

Even now, during this season of Advent, God is patiently calling out to us. He is gently probing our hearts and urging us to turn away from the sins that block our relationship with him.

How does God want you to respond to his call this Advent? You don’t need a personal prophet to help you prepare: You have the Holy Spirit, who knows your heart far more inti­mately than any spouse or advisor ever could.

So as you prepare for Confession this Advent, seek the Spirit’s perspec­tive. Don’t be afraid: He will offer the perfect balance of encouragement and correction. What’s more, as soon as you repent, he will remove the bur­den of your sins and fill you with a new freedom and joy.

“LORD, you have probed me, you know me.” (Psalm 139:1)

Open your heart to God. Allow him to search your thoughts with you. Are there times when you doubt his goodness and mercy? Struggle with your faith? Think that maybe the Lord can forgive others, but not you? Let him help you to believe more fully.

“Have no anxiety at all.” (Philippians 4:6)

Often we are anxious because we want to be in complete control and we don’t trust God’s plan for us. Are there areas of your life that you are reluctant to give to God? Do you believe that he loves you and wants only good for you? When difficulties arise, do you let worry consume you? Are you ready to release your anxi­ety, present your needs to God, and try to thank him in every circum­stance (1 Thessalonians 5:18)? It’s the only way to receive “the peace of God that surpasses all understand­ing” (Philippians 4:7).

“See . . . that no bitter root spring up and cause trouble.” (Hebrews 12:15)

What about your relationships? Do you honor and respect the people around you? Do you have a short temper? Do you hold onto resentment? Are you harboring bitter­ness or unforgiveness? Take it to the Lord, and let the Spirit fill you with compassion.

“From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45)

Words are the overflow of our thoughts. Have you failed to speak with love and kindness? Do you indulge in persistent sarcasm? Do you use bad language when you don’t get your way? Do you criticize more than you uplift? Ask the Lord to change your heart and help you catch these words before they come out of your mouth.

“I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” (Romans 7:19)

Where do you most often find yourself falling short of the good you really want to do? Have you skipped Sunday Mass or neglected prayer? Have you neglected or cheated anyone? Are you using your resources as God wants? Have you given in to addictions or bad habits?

Nothing is beyond God’s grace and mercy. This season, go to Reconciliation with a humble, surren­dered heart. When you leave, hold on to the mercy that Jesus poured out. Remind yourself again and again: “I am forgiven, I am renewed, I am ready for Jesus to come.”