By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published April 18, 2023
Examining my conscience wasn’t tough when I was a child. My sins were basically the same every week—disobeying my parents and fighting with my sister. Because I wanted to cover all the bases, I told the priest I’d committed each of these transgressions 100 times. When he heard these exaggerated estimates of sinfulness, I’m guessing he had to suppress a chuckle.
These days, examining my conscience is more complicated. For example, as I prepared for confession before Easter, I went over the Ten Commandments, plus the precepts of the Catholic Church and the beatitudes. Gazing at the possible sins, I thought, “I don’t do that” and “Not guilty on this one either.”
As I kept coming up empty on sins, I wondered whether I should alert the Vatican that I was an early candidate for sainthood.
My self-congratulatory mood was dampened when I recalled Mother Teresa’s nuns go to confession every week. What in the world would they have to confess? I wondered. I mean, here I am, an ordinary layperson, having trouble coming up with transgressions, and I haven’t been to confession in seven months!
The next evening, I dressed for Tai chi class and climbed into the car for the 10-minute drive to church. I sat fuming at the endless light on Coventry road, wondering for the millionth time why someone didn’t do something about it.
When the light turned green, I eagerly inched my car forward, but then realized there was so much traffic on Scott Boulevard, the cars in front of me were at a standstill. The endless light turned red again, and I was still sitting there.
Anger welled up in me, and I decided to take a different route. I made a right turn, and the car behind me tried to climb into my hatchback. I thought dark, treacherous thoughts about the driver and hissed an impatient “God!!”
When I finally reached my destination, I talked with a friend who mentioned she and her husband were going on a weeklong vacation. Envy immediately flooded my heart, as I thought about the loneliness that is a widow’s plight. I was happy for them, but sad for me, because my days of going on fun getaways with my husband are over.
Later that night, I looked back at the ride to church and realized how many sins had revealed themselves. I had taken the name of the Lord in vain and had allowed anger and impatience to invade my soul.
Worse yet, I then succumbed to envy—which, frankly, is something I often grapple with. You see, I sometimes gaze longingly at couples, who go on dates, laugh and talk together and know someone has their backs.
As I reflected, I realized envy is a slap in God’s face, since it’s the bedfellow of ingratitude. After all, I reminded myself, I had enjoyed a wonderful marriage with many dates and adventures for three decades, thanks to God’s generosity.
Why should I stop believing God has my best interests at heart? In Jeremiah 29:11, we read, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
I was glad I had examined my conscience, and grateful God had shown me my sins. When I went to confession, I definitely had a list of transgressions, although I refrained from telling the priest I’d committed each sin 100 times. I left the confessional knowing Jesus had forgiven me and flooded my soul with grace.
Back at home, I resolved to imitate Mother Teresa’s nuns and go to confession more frequently. I also decided rather sheepishly that I wouldn’t alert the Vatican after all.
Lorraine is a parishioner at St. Thomas More Church in Decatur. She is the author of eight books, available online. Artwork is by her late husband, Jef (www.jefmurray.com).