According to Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus told his followers that he had come not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17).
In his teaching—and in his acts of love toward those around him—Jesus upheld the heart of the Jewish law by revealing its depth and meaning in a new and vital way. For Jesus, the fulfillment came as the Spirit was free to write God’s word on human hearts and move people to an obedience motivated b love and gratitude. He became man for this very reason, that by destroying sin on the cross, he would open the way for the Spirit to be poured out on all who turn to him.
Throughout the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7), Jesus spoke of the interior dimensions of God’s law and how we are to allow the law to speak to our hearts. For this reason, these chapters of Matthew can be of great help to us as we prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. If we ask the Spirit to write Jesus’ law of love on our hearts, we will come to a deeper understanding of what it means to be his disciples. Experiencing this work of the Spirit can bring us great joy and hope. Even as he reveals our sin to us, the Spirit—who is the love of God poured into our hearts—wants to encourage us and strengthen us with the knowledge that we are dearly loved sons and daughters of God. The Lord does not show us sin simply to make us feel guilty, but to free us from its power and to release his life more fully in us.
This Advent, examine your conscience in preparation for receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The following Scriptures and questions can help you receive more of God’s life. Allow the Holy Spirit to show you which of them speak to areas you need to address, and which are not so much of an issue right now. Expect that, even as the Spirit reveals your sin to you, he will encourage and strengthen you with the knowledge of how dearly God loves you and wants to free you from the power of sin.
“You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:13-14)
• Do I speak and act in a way that gives glory to God?
• Does the witness of my life move people to seek the Lord more deeply?
• Do I willingly give of myself to those in my family, my community, and my church?
• Have I taken the responsibility of being the first educator in the faith for my children, teaching them about God’s love and praying with them?
“Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20)
• What is my disposition during Mass and times of personal prayer? Am I open to the Father’s love during these times?
• How do I express my love for God and my gratitude for all his blessings in my life?
• Am I open to receiving love from others? To receiving the wisdom they might have for me?
“Whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment . . . be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:22-24)
• How can I more fully be a witness of God’s love to those around me?
• Do I harbor anger or resentment against anyone?
• Is there anyone in my past or present I have failed to forgive? Do I feel the Lord is calling me to reconcile with anyone whom I have hurt or who has hurt me?
“Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28)
• Do I treasure and respect God’s gift of sexuality within marriage?
• Have I allowed selfishness to take away my joy in my marriage relationship?
• Am I influenced by the secular culture that views sex as a “right” rather than as a gift?
• Have I acted impurely by myself or with others?
• Have I degraded God’s gift of sexuality by listening to obscene jokes or looking at pornographic material?
“Do not swear at all, not by heaven, . . . nor by the earth, . . . nor by Jerusalem.” (Matthew 5:34-35)
• How can I more fully speak words of blessing and encouragement to my family?
• Am I honest and trustworthy with others, both at home and in my business dealings?
• Do I use vulgar or profane language?
“When you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.” (Matthew 6:6)
• Am I open to the love God wants to give me during my times of prayer?
• Do I spend some time every day praying and meditating on Scripture?
• Do I pray for those in need?
“You cannot serve God and mammon.” (Matthew 6:24)
• Do I give God first priority in my life—in my time, my affections, my resources?
• Do I live within my financial means?
• Am I generous with my money and my resources? How do I care for the needs of the poor and outcast?
• Do I get consumed with thoughts about my next big purchase or my next vacation?
“Do not worry about your life.” (Matthew 6:25)
• Do I trust the Lord with my physical needs?
• Do I allow situations beyond my control to upset me? How can I surrender these situations more fully to the Lord?
• Am I content with that the Lord has given me? Am I envious of others who have more than I do?
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
• Do I believe that God has set me free from judgment and condemnation through the cross of Christ?
• Do I “hate the sin but love the sinner”?
• Do I assume the worst about others without understanding their circumstances?
• Do I engage in gossip? Have I said anything to hurt someone’s reputation?
• Do I judge people solely on the basis of their skin color, ethnic background, or religion?
“How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:14)
• Am I willing to stake a stand on controversial issues, even though it may cause me to be misunderstood or ridiculed?
• Am I obedient to the Lord’s call to spread the gospel and help bring about the kingdom of heaven on earth?