Centuries ago, the prophet Joel called the people of Israel to return to the Lord through the gift of repentance. “Rend your hearts, not your garments,” he pleaded (Joel 2:13).
And when they did, God forgave them, welcomed them back into his presence, and opened the floodgates of his love and protection for them.
God wants to open the floodgates for us this Lent as well. And so he asks us to return to him with all our hearts. He asks us to examine our hearts and bring to Confession anything we find there that keeps us separated from him. He promises that as we do, our guilt will fall away. Even better, we’ll find the peace and confidence that come when we encounter the mercy of God.
How can we prepare for this encounter? There are countless areas we can examine. But in the end, it comes down to the two greatest commandments: to love God with all our hearts and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Below are a few questions that can help you as you examine your conscience. Remember: these are just a few areas to consider. So begin here, but ask the Spirit to help you identify any other areas you may need to bring before the Lord.
Love the Lord with All Your Heart.
• Am I setting aside a regular time to be with the Lord in prayer and attending Sunday Mass?
• Are there ways I am placing selfish concerns above my need to follow Jesus and do his will?
• Are there any ways I fail to see and love Christ in my neighbors—especially in the lonely, the poor, and the needy?
• Have I offended the Lord by using coarse, disrespectful language—directed toward God or other people?
Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.
• Am I being generous in spending time with the people around me? Or have I been isolating myself, immersing myself in work or electronic devices instead of human interaction?
• Have I been harboring a grudge or resentment against someone instead of trying to forgive that person?
• Have I engaged in lying, gossip, or slander against another person?
• Have I been pure and chaste in my relationships?
• Is there anyone I have hurt whose forgiveness I need to seek?
Return to the Lord. Confess your sins. His heart is open to you. His arms are open to you. Let him embrace you and fill you with his mercy.