Have you ever seen or experienced real “joy” that great spiritual reality that is much deeper and last much longer than momentary pleasure or even happiness. “Joy” reaches to your soul and fills you with a great peace and sense of security in the “knowledge” and love of God. Last Thursday I experienced that “joy” vicariously. A young man in his twenties who I had not seen in several years paid me the honor of a visit. Divine providence had unexpectedly brought us together in the dentist waiting room. H accepted an invitation to meet later on in the week, for a conversation. It was my hope that I might hear his story, what he was studying, how life at home and school was proceeding for him and how or if he was practicing his faith.
He arrived punctually, always a good sign. The conversation was very fruitful and quickly became spiritual direction. He went on to make an honest, complete, and worthy confession after having stayed away from the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist for a considerable length of time.
After his confession, he was so full of joy he virtually glowed. Words failed him in his efforts to describe how wonderful he felt. His “joy” was diffusive. When he departed, he was full of God’s grace, joy, and true spiritual peace.
A “you have gotten to be kidding me” moments followed, as an affirmation of what he had courageously chosen to do, God spoke to him through the last Chinese fortune cookie left over after a family dinner. When he opened it he read, well we will allow him to tell the tale in his own words:
“Friday night my mother got us all Chinese food for dinner. I came back… late that night and saw that there was one fortune cookie left on the table so I decided, "Hey why not see what my fortune is!" I had a weird feeling in my gut it was going to say something important. "You achieve great peace of mind when you talk with an old friend." That was my fortune! Once I read this I was like, "I can’t wait to tell Father!” I think that was the Holy Spirit letting me know I made the right decision to come and see you, and old friend. Just wanted to tell you that! Keep in touch Father.”
I have heard many confessions during my 26 years of priesthood, but I have seldom seen a more powerful and obvious out pouring of God’s grace on a penitent. This young man received these awesome graces because he opened his heart to God’s healing touch. He did not hold back he humbly and truthfully confessed his sins. God greatly rewarded him with forgiveness and “great peace of mind.” Do I believe God speaks through fortune cookies? Well, He certainly did this time. God of course can use any means He wishes to communicate with us. This time it was through a left over fortune cookie, God certainly does work in strange and marvelous ways.
One of the things that helped this joyful young man to make such an effective confession was the meditative examine of conscience that we shared prior to his confession of sins. Below, I have attempted to recreate this examination of conscience based on a reflection of the seven deadly sins. It is not by any means an extensive or thorough exposition of the seven deadly sins, but it will provide at least a framework or starting point for each of us to examine our own conscience and prepare our souls for an honest, complete, and worthy confession. It will assist us in opening our hearts to the forgiving and healing touch of Our Lord, who washes away our sins in His blood. Perhaps He will also fill our hearts with the “great peace of mind” and joy that he filled the heart of young man in question.
I am ever more convinced in the enormous power of the Sacraments especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation coupled with the worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist. These are the most powerful weapons against the darkness in our lives and in the world, which He has overcome.
“Induamur arma lucis” Rom 13:12,
“Let us put on the armor of light”
(for a more detailed explanation of the Seven Capital Sins and their opposite virtues you might want to see the June 5 2007 post on this blog site. The reflection below is proposed as a means of examining ones conscience as a preparation to receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation.)
The Seven Capital Sins
1. Pride: We sin by pride when we think that somehow we are superior to others, because of our own gifts, talents, or estimation of ourselves. Conceit, is a manifestation of Pride. Putting others down, ridicule, and disrespect for others is also a manifestation of this Sin. Pride is actually at the root of all sins, because ultimately we put our judgments and will before the law and will of God for us. E.g., refusing to obey our parents or legitimate authority, putting our will before God’s, being disrespectful to others, are examples of sins of pride that violate the First and Fourth Commandments.
2. Anger: We sin by anger not by feeling anger but by acting out that anger in inappropriate ways, we may do so verbally, physically, and by other actions or omissions intended to hurt the other with whom we are angry. E.g., Acting out verbally or physically toward others because of ones wrathful feelings is an example of the sin of anger, it can also lead to the violation of the Second, Fourth, and, Fifth Commandments.
3. Envy: We sin by envy when we harbor jealous feelings in our heart and wish we had what others had and want to deny them what they may have. We sin by envy when we wish sadness or disappointment on others. E.g., Jealousy acted or spoken out are the most common manifestations of the sin of Envy, the Ninth and Tenth Commandments are often broken by this sin.
4. Greed: We sin by greed when we refuse to share the good things, gifts, and talents God has bestowed on us. When we hoard things for our own selfish satisfaction, selfishness and self-centeredness are manifestations of Greed. E.g., a refusal to share our good fortune, or putting money or possessions ahead of God and everyone else in our lives is a typical sin of Greed. It can violate the First, Third, Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth commandments. It can all so be found in the violation of the other commandments because it can motivate a host of other sins, such as lying, and stealing, and jealousy.
5. Gluttony: We sin by gluttony when we eat more than is healthy for us, when we abuse alcohol, or drugs, or put anything in our bodies that harms rather than nourishes us. E.g., obviously overeating, “pigging out,” intoxication, by drugs or alcohol are typical examples of this sin. It violates the First, Fourth, and Fifth Commandments and can lead to the breaking of all Ten Commandments.
6. Sloth: We sin by sloth or laziness when we fail from inertia to fulfill our duties and obligations, to God, to our families, our friends our studies, our work, or to any other entity to which or for which we are responsible. E.g., refusing to get out of bed in the morning when we have obligations to God or others, not doing assigned homework, or lack of responsibility at home or work, not taking care of our health or hygiene, can be manifestations of this sin. Sloth or Laziness can also lead to the violation of several of the Ten Commandments such as the Third, Fourth, Seventh, Eighth, and perhaps the Sixth as well.
7. Lust: We sin by lust when we use our sexuality for pleasure in a way other than how God intended it, for the transmission of life and love in marriage. E.g., this sin manifests itself in the use of vulgar and sexualized conversations, jokes, or comments, the use of pornography, masturbation, premarital sexual relations, and extra-marital sexual relations, and all deliberately non-procreative sexual relations. The Sixth Commandment is broken by any of these sins. This deadly sin is among the most deadly because it often involves other deadly sins such as Gluttony, Sloth, Pride, and leads to the violation of other commandments, or directly violates other commandments such as the Fifth, Seventh, and Eighth.
Synopsis: examples of deadly sins
Belittling others accomplishments
Lack of self-control
Jealousy harbored or expressed
Resentment of others success
Spiteful speech or actions
Refusing to share
Lack of Generosity
Inability to give
Hoarding material things
Inordinate focus on money and things
Abuse of alcohol
Abuse of Drugs
Wasting food or drink
Abuse of food or drink
Over sleeping (more than our body needs)
Neglect of Health and Hygiene
Not fulfilling responsibilities or duties
Sexualized conversation, jokes or comments
Use of another for sexual gratification in fantasy or fact
“Objectifying” a “subject”
Use of Pornography
Pre-marital or extra-marital sexual relations