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Grace in the Wilderness—The Sacrament of Reconciliation in Lent

Be strong and steadfast, so that you [may take] possession of the land I swore . . . that I would give [you].( Joshua 1:6)

Grace in the Wilderness—The Sacrament of Reconciliation in Lent: Be strong and steadfast, so that you [may take] possession of the land I swore . . . that I would give [you].( Joshua 1:6)

After forty years of wandering in the desert, just as Israel was about to enter the Promised Land, God commanded them to be strong and brave.

He wanted them to know that while he did promise them a home for themselves, the Israelites had to cooperate with him in order to receive this inheritance.

In a similar way, God calls each of us to be strong and courageous so that we can experience his freedom and grace during our Lenten “desert” journey. Jesus has already defeated sin, and now he calls us to stand firm in faith. He calls us to trust that as we stay close to him, all the grace of our redemption will flow into our hearts like a rushing river.

This is why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is so important. Whenever we turn to God and confess our sins, he washes us clean so that we can continue to move forward toward the “Promised Land” he has given us. The following examination of conscience, while not exhaustive, is meant to help you identify those areas in your life where you may have put aside the call to be strong in the Lord.

Prayerfully consider the questions below and ask the Holy Spirit to point out where you need repentance. As you do, know that God loves to forgive us and empower us to take hold of all the promises he has given us.

Love for God

One of the scribes asked Jesus, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’” (Mark 12:28-30)

Jesus answered and said to [Judas, not the Iscariot], “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” (John 14:23)

In what ways do I put God first, above all else? Do I carve out time in the day to be with him in prayer? Do I look upon God’s Church and his laws with respect and gratitude?

Love for Others

A scholar of the law asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” He replied by telling the Parable of the Good Samaritan, asking finally, “Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” The scholar answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:29-37)

Jesus said, “If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13:14-15).

Can I recall any situations in which I failed to care for the people the Lord has put in my life? Were there times when I resisted putting their needs before my own? Can I remember any situations in which I failed to treat someone with the respect and dignity of a child of God?

Mercy

Then Peter approaching asked [Jesus], “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18:21-22)

Jesus said, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him. Then Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She replied, “No one, sir.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, [and] from now on do not sin any more.” (John 8:7-11)

Are there situations in which I am finding it hard to forgive someone who hurt me? Are there groups of people whom I have judged too quickly based upon their social status, their race, or their appearance? Are there situations in which I am reluctant to receive God’s mercy, and so find it hard to show others mercy?

Humility

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then he embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them. (Mark 10:14-16)

(Philippians 2:6-11). How often do I recall that my talents and gifts come from God? Have I treated the people I regularly encounter as children of God, regardless of their state or position in life? To what extent do I rely on the Lord and his grace and power during my days?

Generosity

(Mark 6:32-34; Luke 6:38). How easy do I find it to share my time and gifts with others? Am I generous when it comes to supporting charitable organizations that care for the poor and needy? How much do I rely on the Lord for fulfillment, compared with the security I find from my material possessions?

Courage

(Joshua 1:7-9; John 16:33). Can I recall situations when I should have spoken the truth in love but didn’t? Am I doing all I can to stand up against injustice and to protect the unborn, the poor, and the defenseless? Are there recent situations in which I failed to persevere through a difficulty that confronted me?

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