|The Repentant Magdalene by Georges De La Tour|
We have to be on guard for those things inside ourselves of which we might not be aware - those things of which we might have a vague knowledge. St. Augustine said:For while you give yourself up to evil, you come to consider yourself good, because you do not take the trouble to look at yourself. You reproach others and do not take stock of yourself. You accuse others and do not examine yourself. You place them before your very eyes and place yourself behind your back. So, when the time comes for Me to reckon with you, I shall do the opposite; I will turn you around and confront you with yourself. Then you will see yourself and you will weep.We tend to give ourselves a free pass when it comes to admitting guilt. The examination of conscience is the exact tool that we need to combat this tendency.
The Church recommends frequent examinations. It's a good habit to get into. We start off by asking guidance from the Holy Spirit. We can ask our Lady to pray for us too. Then, we simply look into ourselves over a period of time, the time since our previous examination of conscience (ideally not more than a day). Our search is for any thoughts, words, deeds and omissions that have offended God. It's helpful to have a guide at hand, at least in the beginning. The Knights of Columbus have one online here.
The reason for this is twofold. First, as St. Augustine said, we would like to look anywhere but ourselves for guilt. Secondly, love for God means that we are sorry specifically for each and every sin, and we admit that indeed we have sinned.
God spares us knowing the depths and all the ramifications of our sins. If we are serious about knowing ourselves, He will help us to see more and more our failings. We will realize the number of times we have chosen to be distant from Him.
The examination of conscience is not the end of it. It gives us the matter to bring to the Sacrament of Reconciliation where we are restored to grace in the case of confessed mortal sins, and given an increase of grace in the case of confessed venial sins.
Let's get into the habit of making daily examinations of conscience before going to bed. Then, we will be on the road to thorough confessions and on the way to greater union with God.