The world seems like a scary place at the moment. With the rising rates of the pandemic and civil unrest, not to mention a heavy workload for a tiny team, it is very difficult to process just what is happening and how I need to react to it all.
As the infection rates increase, I’m starting to re-think what I’m doing and where I’m going. My workout has gone virtual since the owner had to close the physical location. I still go to Mass, to the grocery store and to visit my Mom. Since attending Mass in person is a possibility, the decision to attend is mine. I am now the one to determine if the safety procedures that have been put into place are sufficient to limit any exposure to the virus; I have to weigh the probability of contracting the virus against receiving the Eucharist.
In a video message, Bishop Barron called for a nationwide examination of conscience after the violence in DC. I saw the video while I was waiting for my dinner to warm up, and it was the first I had heard that something happened. It wasn’t until I turned on the 10 PM news to catch the early weather report that I saw the magnitude of the calamity. I still don’t think I’ve processed the events fully, and I’m not sure I will ever be able to comprehend why.
An examination of conscience is not just a spiritual exercise, but a call to deeper reflection on what we are thinking and what we are doing. Our thoughts and beliefs help us bring order to the information we take in from the world around us. We are bombarded on a daily basis with noises from nature and from machines, with data from our technology and our interactions with others; there’s a tremendous amount of “stuff” our brains need to churn through! As we process all the information, we make decisions as to what’s right and wrong, what we like and what’s not important. The result of all this can be seen in our words and actions.
In a spiritual examination, we look to see how our thoughts, words, and actions align with the direction that God has provided for us in Scripture and the example Jesus gave us. For Catholics, this exercise is to help us as we journey towards heaven. We know we’re not perfect and some days will be harder than others. We will fall, many times. However, by reviewing the what, how, and why of our daily life, we can ask God’s forgiveness for what we’ve done wrong, ask for His strength and grace to do better tomorrow, and give Him praise for allowing us to be His light on earth.
A national examination of conscience is a call to stop and reflect on what we think, how we react, and why we choose the actions we take whether or not we use God’s commandments as a baseline. It’s not unlike the way we evaluate our activities in light of new information about the pandemic. The escalation in political turmoil calls all Americans to question their responses and to make choices to align ourselves more firmly with our beliefs.
I’ve been following Fr. Mike Schmitz’s Bible in a Year podcast, which has included readings from the book of Job. Seeing the tragedy of Job has reminded me that calamities happen, tragedies happen, bad things have happened for many millennia. Yet God is here with us. God will use even the bad stuff to bring us closer to Him. The world will always be a scary place, yet when we keep our eyes on God, and examine our thoughts and actions to become the best version of ourselves, we can rest in the peace of God like a hug from our Father, giving us the confidence for another day.