IT’S usually associated with school life, often striking fear and terror on the poor students. But it actually should be associated with all of us, and in fact, in all the levels and aspects of our life. It’s a necessity for our effectiveness, if not, for our very survival.
Thus, in our more collective life of business and politics, there are regular auditing and reporting to be made. We have just heard, for example, the President’s report on the state of the nation (SONA) which, in a way, is precisely an exercise of examination.
To do regular examination is a must for all of us to see if our life, our behavior, our conscience are still on the right track. Otherwise, we open ourselves to all kinds of deviations.
It’s part of our human condition that we go through our life having to make decisions, or at least to react to all kinds of stimuli, internal or external, personal or social, material or spiritual, etc.. All these we need to judge whether they are right or wrong according to some relevant moral criteria.
Let’s hope that this need for regular examination be felt by all of us, especially in the personal level, since the vitality and effectiveness of our life, from its personal level to its most global and even cosmic dimensions, greatly depends on that exercise.
It’s there in the examination of conscience where we review our performance of the day in the moral sense. After all, the moral quality of our life, the result of our moral human acts, holds ultimate value over the other aspects of our life.
It’s in the examination of conscience where we sort out things, trying to identify the motives of our thoughts, desires, words and actions, and seeing if these motives are good or bad. This is not an easy task at all. But with regular examination, somehow we can get a good picture and devise the appropriate strategies.
It’s in the examination of conscience where we would have a running account of the state of our soul. If we truly recognize the objective value of our soul, then it would be most logical for us to do everything to keep it healthy, strong and fruitful. The condition of our soul ultimately determines the quality of our life.
And so, we would give priority to this act of piety that actually would require just a little time, about 3 minutes, and usually done at the end of the day, just before going to bed.
Obviously, some effort has to be exerted, and sometimes, heroic effort, since we have to contend with our usual weaknesses of laziness, mental and physical, and complacency, lukewarmness, shallow thinking, and all kinds of distractions.
Our tendency is to get easily dominated by our here-and-now conditions and often failing to see the bigger picture that usually requires more investment on our part in terms of time, interest and effort. We have to be ready to do battle against this tendency.
Besides, to make the examination of conscience, we need to put ourselves first in the presence of God, since that exercise is not simply a matter of psychologizing ourselves, or tweaking our emotional state, or doing some introspection.
We have to be wary not to fall into downgrading this crucial act of piety into a mere psychological or emotional exercise.
We would not see things properly that way. Worse, we most likely would get unnecessarily entangled with complicated situations.
To be able to see the objective state of our soul, we need to see it together with God who gives us the true light, more penetrating than our X-rays and more extensive than what the sun can cover.
With God, that is, with faith and trust in him, no matter how ugly the state of our soul may be, we can always be reassured of his mercy and help. When the examination of conscience is done this way, there will always be peace and joy in the end.
Sure, there will be elements of fear, embarrassment, etc., involved, but love and mercy will win at the end of the day. We just have to make sure that our examination of conscience is an intimate, filial encounter with God our Father who is all too eager to understand us, to pardon us and to help us in our needs.
If done properly, the examination of conscience is actually a very happy moment for all of us, and a very good way to end the day. When we say, “Sorry, Lord,” somehow things are patched up.