Wednesday 12 July 2023

Is God my God?

When we first learn how to go to confession — whether that was as an adult or a child — we need to use an examination of conscience. We work through a list of questions designed to jog our memories and that remind us of our sins. And if it has been a long time since we last went to confession, we might also find such an exercise useful, since we may well have forgotten things that we want to be sorry for.

But generally speaking, if we confess regularly, we are less likely to need these written examinations. We know what our sins are, because they tend to come from our own particular collection of temptations that we happen to struggle with personally. And if we form the good habit of examining our conscience at the end of each day, we have an ongoing awareness of our own strengths and weaknesses in living the Christian life.

There are also other kinds of examination of conscience that aren’t necessarily meant to lead into sacramental confession. The following set of questions was composed by the Dominican priest Fr Vincent McNabb (and is included in our new prayer book). They are not so much about highlighting sins to be confessed, but identifying areas we need to work on as we grow closer to God. No matter how holy we become, all of us will still be able to say that we could love God more. These questions, answered prayerfully, should help us to do that.

Is God my God?
Or is he only one amongst many gods, vulgar or sinful, whom I strive to serve?

Is God the Sovereign of my mind?
Is the thought of God my sovereign thought?

Do I believe in God’s Word more than any other word—more than the beloved word of my friend, the imperative word of my country, the persuasive word of Art and Science?

Do I worship God, in body and spirit, at morning and at night, by kneeling down to pray?

Do I pray? Or do I merely say prayers when with but slight effort of mind and will I might pray?
Is it my lips only, or also my heart, that says: ‘Hallowed be thy name’?
Do I understand this mystic prayer when I say it—or am I glad not to understand?

Do I dwell with ease—or even joy—on the words ‘Thy will be done’?
Do I hurry over these words lest God overhear them and take me at my word?

Do I trust God?
Do I fear that he may hurt me if I give myself wholly to his keeping?

Do I expect and ask him to do for me what he has already given me power to do for myself?
Do I thus ask God to serve me, if not in my sins, at least in my life?

Do I love God?

Is God at home in my heart?

Am I at home with God?
Am I always at home to God?
Does God dwell in my heart as in his own house, which he may enter and leave at will?

Have I cast him forth from my soul by any wilful sin?

Have I been as much at ease after my sin as before?
Or have I been restless until, my sin confessed and forgiven, I have found rest in God?
Are the Sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion to me the outpourings of Jesus Christ’s most precious Blood, to the cleansing and nourishing of my soul?

Do I often thank God, through Jesus Christ, for these and countless other gifts which have made the Church the King’s Wedding Feast to me?

Do I still cling to this earth with its pleasant sights and sounds, or are my eyes straining to catch sight of the City of God?

If at this moment Death should knock at the door of my soul, should I treat its summons as an interruption, or an impertinence, or even a cruelty; or should I welcome it as a glad invitation to God's Wedding Feast?

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