“No disciple is superior to the teacher; but when fully trained, every disciple will be like his teacher.” Luke 6:40
Lent is days away now. So I turn my humble thoughts on preparing for the miracle of Easter…
When Socrates was on trial for impiety, he was famously quoted as having said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Words to live by as Ash Wednesday approaches.
As a child I learned how to examine my conscience before confession. Later in college, my Jesuit teachers taught me about self-examination using the discernment exercises of Ignatius of Loyola. I also had my Jewish friends telling me about the Ten Days of Repentance (Aseret Yemei ha Teshuvah) between Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Like our own traditions, these centuries-old observances are dedicated to examining our conscience—and making the necessary amends.
When I served some years ago as a missioner in Egypt, I learned of a third tradition. Going back to the earliest mystics, Muslims have practiced muhaasaba, or regular self-examination, in order to avoid evil and do good—all in preparation for the Last Judgment.
Our three Abrahamic religions agree: understanding who we are, and desiring to do good above all, make us worthy in God’s eyes. If the words “examination of conscience” produce a lingering anxiety in you, don’t worry. You’re in the emotional company of many others who struggled, too, including Ignatius of Loyola and Thérèse of Lisieux. Let’s go for something less intimidating. How about “an examen of life”?
Today’s reading from Luke sets the stage. Some questions to ask ourselves: Whose vision for life am I following? Whom have I named as my leader and guide, my teacher and role model? How do I even make these choices? Am I actually following someone who is visionary? Or visionless?
Answering these questions during Lent is my job, too. It requires me to “tune into myself” and be honest about how I want to live my life, and the example I want to be for others. This reminder from Luke says all I need to know: “A good tree does not bear rotten fruit; nor does a rotten tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit.”
Friend, now’s the time to think about what you and I will do this Lent to bear the good fruit of our faith. With a little effort, the harvest can be rich with gifts of charity, compassion, justice, and hope. May our Lent—yours and mine—be bountiful.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Father Lance Nadeau, M.M.
Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time
I confess my sins and acknowledge my guilt
before Your altar, my Lord and my God.
Cleanse me from all my transgressions,
evils that I did and good I failed to do.
Wash my soul anew and restore Your image
in me which through my fault became stained and distorted.
Through prayers, fasting and penance
rekindle the divine spark within me
that I, in turn, might draw all people to You.
Not for my sins alone, but for all
who dwell in darkness and
the shadow of death, may my prayers
and petitions rise like incense in Your sight.
Walk with me Lord, as I walk with You,
this Lent and always. Do not put me
to the test nor hide Your presence
from me. Into Your hands, O Lord,
I commend my spirit and place
all my hope and trust in You
that together we might cross the dessert
of indifference to arrive in that kingdom
where You live and reign with the
father and Holy Spirit, God forever and ever.
Prayer by Father Joe Veneroso, M.M.