Examination of Conscience & the Divine Physician
Given that Lent is a time for greater focus on repentance, examining our consciences with renewed honesty is essential to obtaining that goal. I don’t know about you, but allowing myself to be more open about my own faults often feels scary. The process of getting to that state of honesty can feel a bit like dragging myself to the doctor’s office. In light of this, I have found it helpful to think of an examination of my conscience as being analogous to exploring my physical health with a first-rate medical doctor. In my experience, a good medical doctor is someone whose competency and empathy make me willing to tell that doctor anything I need to about my health, even things I might normally feel embarrassed about, because I believe that doctor is sincere and capable of giving me the right kind of care. Correspondingly, it can be helpful to think of examining one’s conscience as working with an outstanding doctor – the best doctor in existence.
Similar to the way physical illness keeps our bodies from functioning properly, sin is like a sickness that keeps our souls from working rightly, from functioning the way God made them to function in order for us to thrive. As a practical first step in examination of conscience, I find it helpful to look at a list of the Seven Deadly Sins of lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, and pride to organize my reflection. The list can serve as a guide in cooperating with the Divine Physician to localize in my soul where sin might be making me sick. Sometimes the treatment plan that results is long-term, but I always leave that proverbial doctor visit with the relief of knowing that I am on the right track to a full healing. I am also mindful in that moment that I would not be enjoying that relief had I not first repented. Going to any doctor can be scary before taking the step of showing up at that doctor’s office. What is scarier, however, is the deadly consequence that can result from not having taken that step. While any time of year is the right time for repentance, Lent is especially fitting for it, so today let us all renew our commitment to regular checkups with the Divine Physician.