I love the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Not because it wipes the slate clean, or because it is some kind of "get out of jail free" card.
The reason I love the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation is because it is a place where I find God's mercy, but in a very special way: God reminds me that I am good and that I have gifts to share with the world. Reconciliation is less about me confessing my sins and more about me recognizing who I am in the sight of God.
This is the examination of conscience I use when preparing to celebrate Reconciliation:
- Quiet the mind. I focus on my breath or on a simple mantra "Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy."
- Reflect on gifts and talents. I do a mental checklist of the things that bring out the best in me and the things that help me bring about the best in others. These are the things that, invariably, are the very reasons why people like to be around me. I thank God for these gifts.
- Consider the obstacles. What has prevented me from using these gifts and talents fully? When have I been ungrateful for these gifts? St. Ignatius of Loyola considered ingratitude the greatest of sins.
- Offer the obstacles as a sacrifice. When I confess my sins, I name the obstacles and explain how they prevented me from being my best self or from bringing out the best on other people.
This isn't the way most people approach this sacrament; normally, we start listing all the bad things that we've done--our sins. But this approach never sat well with me because it seems to treat the law of love as a mere moral legalism and not as a way to wholeness and connectedness.
Let me know if this examination of conscience changes the way you experience the Sacrament of Reconciliation.