Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Leader: The Lord be with you.
All: And with your spirit.
Leader: My dear brothers and sisters, during this Holy Week, as we come closer to the celebration of the Paschal mysteries, we pause for a moment to recognise our faults and failings, and to ask the Lord for His pardon and mercy. This Holy Week, we follow Christ who, by His death and resurrection, helps us to die to sin and so rise to new life in Him.
In this Examination of Conscience, we will reflect on God’s mercy and on our willingness to recognise our sins before Him. Through the parable of the of the Merciful Father and Pope Francis’ reflection of God’s mercy, we will examine our conscience, present our sins to God and prepare ourselves to go for Sacramental Confession.
Our sorrow for sin should arise from a love by which God is loved above all things. God knows our hearts and is ever willing to forgive our sins, whenever we ask forgiveness from Him. We must, however, include – in our act of asking God for forgiveness – a firm resolution to go to Sacramental Confession as soon as the possibility for it arises. This is because God has given us Sacramental Confession as the ordinary means through which our mortal sins are forgiven. We must, therefore, make recourse to this Sacrament whenever possible.
Because of the nationwide lockdown and orders for us to stay at home, we are unable to make use of this ordinary means of Sacramental Confession. Hence, through this penitential service, and through our deep sorrow for sin and our firm resolve to go to Confession when the possibility for it arises. He does not hold this lockdown situation against us, but, as our Merciful Father, continues to offer us his love and mercy.
Leader: Let us pray.
God our merciful Father, give us the gift of the Holy Spirit. May He come into our hearts and show us our sins, our faults, our failings. May He give us a repentant heart and the grace to make a good confession. Give us your peace that we may not be anxious, but rather trust in your abundant mercy. We make our prayer through our Lord, Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever.
Reader: A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke. (Lk. 15:11-24)
There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So, he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So, he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So, he got up and went to his father.
But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So, they began to celebrate.
Reader: The Gospel of the Lord.
All: Praise to you Lord, Jesus Christ.
Leader: We now read from Pope Francis’ reflection on the Merciful Father.
I am always struck when I reread the parable of the merciful father; it impresses me because it always gives me great hope. Think of that younger son who was in the father’s house, who was loved; and yet he wants his part of the inheritance. He goes off, spends everything, hits rock bottom, where he could not be more distant from the father. Yet when he is at his lowest, he misses the warmth of the father’s house and he goes back. And the father? Had he forgotten the son? No, never. He is there, he sees the son from afar; he was waiting for him every hour of every day. The son was always in his father’s heart, even though he had left him, even though he had squandered his whole inheritance, his freedom. The father, with patience, love, hope, and mercy had never for a second stopped thinking about him, and as soon as he sees him still far off, he runs out to meet him and embraces him with tenderness, the tenderness of God, without a word of reproach: his son has returned! And that is the joy of the father. In that embrace for his son is all this joy: he has returned! God is always waiting for us; he never grows tired. Jesus shows us this merciful patience of God so that we can regain confidence, hope-always!
I would like to emphasize one other thing: God’s patience has to call forth in us the courage to return to him, however many mistakes and sins there may be in our life. But what can I count on? My own merits? No. [St Bernard tells us:] “My merit is God’s mercy. I am by no means lacking merits as long as he is rich in mercy. If the mercies of the Lord are manifold, I too will abound in merits.” This is important: the courage to trust in Jesus’ mercy, to trust in his patience, to seek refuge always in the wounds of his love.
Maybe someone among us here is thinking, My sin is so great, I am as far from God as the younger son in the parable; my unbelief is like that of Thomas. I don’t have the courage to go back, to believe that God can welcome me and that he is waiting for me, of all people. But God is indeed waiting for you; he asks of you only the courage to go to him. I have always pleaded, “Don’t be afraid, go to him, he is waiting for you, he will take care of everything.” We hear many offers from the world around us; but let us take up God’s offer instead: his is a caress of love. For God, we are not numbers, we are important; indeed, we are the most important thing to him. Even if we are sinners, we are what is closest to his heart.
(from “The Church of Mercy” by Pope Francis)
Examination of Conscience:
Leader: In light of the parable of the prodigal son and the merciful father, we now take a few moments to reflect on how and when we have turned away from God.
Reader: There was a man who had two sons. (pause)
Leader: Do I see all members of the human family as my brothers and sisters? Do I lift up vulnerable people throughout the world in my prayer, especially those who are infected with the Coronavirus and those who care for them? Am I selfish and do I pay attention only to my personal concerns? At this time of isolation and lockdown, am I attentive to the needs of my family and neighbours?
Reader: Father, give me a share of the estate? (pause)
Leader: Do I recognize and respect the economic, social, political, and cultural rights of others? Do I live in excessive material comfort while remaining insensitive to the needs of others? Do I respect the life and dignity of every human person? Am I committed to ensuring that every human being is able to live in dignity?
Reader: He squandered his wealth in wild living. (pause)
Leader: Do I live wastefully? Do I use the earth’s resources too freely and carelessly? Am I part of the modern consumerist culture, with a preoccupation with acquiring more and more things, regardless of whether I need them or not? Are there ways I could change my daily practices and those of my family, school, workplace, or community to better conserve the earth’s resources for future generations?
Reader: He went and hired himself out. (pause)
Leader: Do I support the rights of all workers to adequate wages, health insurance, sick leave, and conducive working conditions? Do I treat all workers with whom I interact with respect, no matter their position or class? As a worker, do I give my employer a fair day’s work for my wages? As an employer, do I treat workers fairly?
Reader: No one gave him anything. (pause)
Leader: Do I give attention to the needs of the poor and vulnerable? Am I too concerned for my own good at the expense of others? Do I care for the dignity and well-being of poor and vulnerable persons? At this time, have I engaged in panic-buying, and not cared about other people’s needs?
Reader: I will set out and go back to my father. (pause)
Leader: Am I aware of my sins, my faults, my weaknesses? Do I make the effort to seek God in the Sacraments? Do I humble myself and ask for forgiveness when I have treated others wrongly and unjustly? Am I doing all I can to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus?
Reader: I have sinned against heaven and against you. (pause)
Leader: Do I rely solely on myself and not on God? Am I unwilling to turn away from everything that is opposed to God? Are my beliefs, attitudes, and choices such that they undermine other people? Have I disobeyed, insulted, or shown disrespect to my parents and elders? Am I disrespectful and impolite? If I show any symptoms of Covid-19, am I self-isolating and preventing the spread of the virus and other illnesses?
Reader: This son of mine was dead and is alive again. (pause)
Leader: Is God a part of my daily life? Do I recognise the good things God has provided for me? Do I acknowledge the seriousness of sin? Do I ever doubt God’s love and forgiveness?
Act of Contrition:
Leader: Let us pray together the Act of Contrition:
All: O my God, I am very sorry that I have sinned against you because you are so good. With the help of your grace, I will try not to sin again. Amen.
Prayer to make a good Confession:
Leader: Having examined our conscience and prayed our Act of Contrition, let us now pray for the grace to make a good Confession when this time of lockdown is over.
All: Come Holy Spirit into my soul. Grant me the grace to confess my sins fully, humbly and with a contrite heart. Help me to firmly resolve not to commit them again. O blessed Virgin, Mother of my Redeemer, and refuge of penitent sinners, intercede for me that I may obtain the grace to make a good confession. O all you Angels and Saints of God, pray for me that I may repent from my sins and that my heart may be forever united with yours in eternal love of God. Amen.
Leader: Let us now pause for a moment and call to mind our sins. Let us ask for God’s forgiveness, knowing that He waits for us as the father waited for his prodigal son. Let us tell God that, like the prodigal son went back to his father, we too will approach Him in the Sacrament of Confession when the opportunity for it.
Leader: The Lord be with you.
All: And with your spirit.
Leader: May Almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Leader: Let us remain the peace and mercy of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God.