If you have been keeping up with the daily readings, you will notice a common theme that keeps cropping up. Be vigilant! Be prepared! The Lord is coming, when you least expect it! We get these readings each year at this time of year as we approach the end of the Liturgical Calendar, we get into “End Times” readings. Are you ready for the coming of Christ in your life? In Paul’s letter to the Romans, 7:19 “For I for I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do – this I keep on doing”. This is my constant fight. Daily, I find that I have failed yet again to live a perfect life, as Christ wants us to live. Daily, I find myself lacking in my own abilities to be that perfect Christian, despite my desire to be perfect. Jesus challenges us to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” Matt 5:48 all the while he knows that we cannot live up to that perfection by ourselves. We are not ready to receive Christ into our lives.
Christ within us can strengthen us through the Holy Spirit to live that perfect life but only if we allow ourselves to be led by him. Are you willing to allow Christ into your life? It may cost you something that is precious to you at the moment. Perhaps it will cost you an hour a day of time you would otherwise dedicate to watching TV or looking at your Cell phone. Perhaps it means you allow yourself to be led to volunteer your time and energy in places you would not otherwise have considered. I think first, it means admitting to ourselves that we are not doing a very good job of being perfect when we rely only on ourselves. Our relationships suffer, our work can suffer, our own self image and emotions can suffer when we allow our fleshly urges to guide us.
We are approaching the end of the year now and we need to remember that to rely on God, we first must stop trying to rely on ourselves. But, Here’s the thing. God has given us the greatest gift of all. He gave us the freedom to choose. We have the freedom to decide to go it alone, all by ourselves, but we also have the freedom to choose to empty our-selves of our emotionally charged, selfish motivations and allow Him to enter us and guide us. I know that each of us can offer up a prayer now to promise God our hearts and lives. Many Christians do this regularly. An Ignatian practice involves a nightly examen. A daily stock-taking of our lives, before we have forgotten what happened that day. Each night, before we’re too sleepy, we need to take a few minutes to do our nightly examen. The Jesuits do their examen twice a day, at noon and again at night. I have found over the months of doing these that I often cannot even recall what I did that morning so I understand how twice daily might be a good idea but at least once, as a part of your nightly preparations before heading off to bed (not after you get into bed because by then you will be too sleepy to complete it) you might consider performing an examen. Here is a brief outline of how to do a nightly examen.
- Ponder God’s presence in your life right there and then. Let the day’s events pass through your mind, both the good and the bad.
- Take time to count all the various blessings you received through the day. Did the sun shine? Did someone smile at you? Did you eat well today? Did you have success in any of your endeavors, at work or at home? Make sure you bask in the awareness of all that God did for you today.
- Go back through your day again, this time recalling all the times when you did not accept the graces God was offering. When did you choose to follow your fleshly desires rather than doing His will? When did you not smile at someone and say “Hi!”. Did you speak poorly of someone? Did you lust after someone or something, even if only in your heart? Did you waste time watching a screen (big or small) when you could have been doing something productive?
- Now, resolve and ask the Lord to help you with your resolution to not do the same sins again tomorrow. Ask the Lord to let you make a perfect contrition and give you the graces you will need to be better tomorrow.
- Finally, end your time in joy and hope, recognizing that God will continue to bless you with his presence, his Grace and will continuously be offering to guide you out of your sin and into a loving relationship with Him and others, if you allow him to.
- God bless and sleep well, knowing you are once again justified in your relationship with God.
Once you have become familiar with doing a nightly examen, you will also become more aware of why you need to partake in the sacrament of reconciliation, something which was instituted by Christ himself Matt 16:19 “whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” The Church has this sacrament so that we can partake and hear those words “Go in peace, your sins are forgiven”. This wonderful gift of knowing Christ himself, through the priest has spoken forgiveness to us is something we should partake in joyfully on a regular basis. The church wants us to partake at least twice a year but recommends we do it monthly. When is the last time you went to ‘confession’? For me, it was a few weeks now and I am feeling the need to go once again. The Pope goes every week to his confessor. If he needs to go weekly, then clearly, you and I, sinners, need to go at least that often too.