The Benefit of Self-Examination
He had been there a hundred times before.
Holding short of the runway, the seasoned pilot of the single-engine airplane waited for clearance to take off. It was just another routine flight, and as he waited his mind wandered. The process had become so familiar that he only glanced at his pre-flight checklist and didn't bother going through it. Receiving clearance from the control tower, he added power and took off. However, as the airplane lifted off the ground he realized something was wrong, and moments later the airplane crashed!
Every pilot knows that his life and the lives of his passengers depend upon not only his skill but also on the thoroughness of his pre-flight safety check. Similarly, a thorough evaluation of our spiritual lives is essential.
When should we examine ourselves?
- Before confession
The early Church gathered for Mass weekly and sometimes even daily. (See Acts 2:42, 46; 20:7.) They would have had to have a spiritual self examination and confession as needed on a weekly and or a daily basis before participating in the Mass.
- During our Evening prayers.
Many are not able to go to Mass on a daily basis because of their work etc. Some can't even go weekly on Sunday because there is no Priest to be able to give Mass. In those cases our Spiritual self-examination should become a regular part of our lives, not just before we take part at Mass, but at any time, any where, and on a daily basis.
By taking time on a daily basis to search our hearts for sins that are unconfessed, we demonstrate to God our desire to walk blamelessly before Him.
A good time to do this would be in the evening before going to bed. It is a perfect time to look back on the day and see where you failed and areas in your life that need to be worked on.
Below I have taken excerpts from the Little Flower Prayer Book, that can help you with this. Remember, the goal of self-examination is to identify sin.
What is a good way to examine ourselves?
Examination by using the ten commandments.
I. Have you doubted in matters of faith? Murmured against God at your adversity or at the prosperity of others? Despaired of His mercy?
Have you believed in fortune tellers or consulted in them?
Have you gone to places of worship belonging to other denominations?
Have you recommended yourself to God? Neglected your morning or night prayers? Omitted religious duties or practices through motives of human respect?
Have you rashly presumed upon God's forbearance in order to commit sin?
Have you read books, papers, and periodicals of anti-Catholic or atheistic tendency? Made use of superstitious practices? Spoken with levity or irreverence of priests, religious, or sacred objects?
II. Have you taken the name of God in vain? Profained anything related to religion?
Have you sworn falsely, rashly, or in slight and trivial matters? Cursed yourself or others, or any creature? Angered others so as to make them swear, or blaspheme God?
III. Have you kept holy the Lord's day, and all other days commanded to be kept holy? Bought or sold things, not of necessity, on that day? Done or commanded some servile work not of necessity? Talked, gazed, or laughed in the church? Profaned the day by drinking, gambling, or in other ways?
IV. Have you honored your parents, superiors and masters, according to your just duty? Deceived them? Disobeyed them? Have you failed in due reverence to aged persons?
V. Have you procured, desired, or hastened the death of anyone? Borne hatred? Oppressed any one? Desired revenge? Not forgiven injuries? Refused to speak to others? Used provoking language? Injured others? Caused enmity between others?
VI and IX. Have you been guilty of any sin against holy purity in thought word, or deed?
VII. Have you been guilty of stealing or of deceit in buying, or selling, in regard to wares, prices, weights or measures? Have you willingly damaged another man's goods, or negligently spoiled them?
VIII. Have you borne false witness? Called injurious names? Disclosed anothers sins? Flattered others? Judged rashly?
X. Have you coveted unjustly anything that belongs to another?
Examination of the Precepts of the Church
- Have you gone to confession at least once a year? Received Holy communion during Easter time?
- Have you violated the fasts of the Church, or eaten flesh-meat on prohibited days?
- Have you sinned against any other commandment of the Church?
After the Examination
Make sure when we ask ourselves these questions we answer them honestly. Once you discover the sins of which you have been guilty, you should ask yourself if you truly have a heartfelt sorrow for those sins. If not, ask God to give you a sorrowful heart for those sins you have committed.
Considerations to Excite in our Heart True Contrition for Our Sins
Consider who God is, and how good and gracious and good He is to you, Whom you have so often and so deeply offended by these sins. He made you-He made you for Himself, to know, to love, and serve Him, and to be happy with Him forever. He redeemed you by His blood. He was borne with you in mind and waited for you so long. He it is Who has called you and moved you to repentance. Why have you thus sinned against Him? Why have you been so ungrateful? What more could he do for you? Oh, be ashamed, and mourn, and despise yourself, because you have sinned against your Maker and your Redeemer, Whom you ought to love above all things!
Consider the consequences of even one mortal sin. By it you lose the grace of God. You destroy peace of conscience; you forfeit the felicity of heaven, for which you were created and redeemed; and you prepare yourself for eternal punishment.
let me leave you with some Scripture to meditate on, and some final words.
(I Corinthians 11:31 &32) But if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But whilst we are judged, we are chastised by the Lord, that we be not condemned with this world.
(Hebrews 12:6) For whom the Lord loveth, he chastiseth;
When things are going well for us we are not easily motivated to the activity of self examination. But when a major conflict arises and our spirit is grieved, we have the most effective motivation to search out the inner motives, actions, words and attitudes of our hearts.
(Proverbs 20:27) The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, which searcheth all the hidden things of the bowels.
This is what God meant when He said, “reproofs of instruction are the way of life:” (Proverbs 6:23) “He that loveth correction, loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is foolish.” (Proverbs 12:1)