Examination of Conscience, Lenten resolutions, Spiritual Warfare, St. Michael the Archangel, Temptation, Virtue
Yesterday at the end of Mass we recited the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel before the final blessing. As we prayed, “St. Michael, defend us in battle, be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil….”, I wondered how many of the faithful say this prayer with rote indifference, unaware that, in our world today, we truly are in a battle between good and evil. The prayer implies that we are in the battle. We are fighting for our souls and the souls of everyone we love. We are the troops on the ground and when we call upon St. Michael it’s like we’re calling for close air support to assist us. It doesn’t mean we sit back and let him do all the work.
At home after Mass, I packed my bags, loaded a U-Haul trailer and set out on a road trip to San Antonio, Texas. The first leg was to my parent’s house in southeast Missouri for a quick visit. On the way I saw a billboard with a photograph of a Marine running through a jungle with the caption, “Battles are won from within”, alluding to the interior fortitude required to be a Marine. Reflecting on the morning’s Mass, I thought we could all benefit from some stronger moral interior fortitude to help resist the temptations of the world today.
Shortly after seeing this billboard I turned on my stereo and Jerry Jeff Walker’s The Rain Song from his It’s About Time album began to play. It contains the lyric, “The hardest thing a man can do is look inside and see the truth about himself.” Still thinking about the spiritual warfare we are waging, it made sense that the place to start if we want to win this war is to look inside and see the truth about ourselves.
A Marine discovers his or her weaknesses by repeatedly facing difficult challenges and, through sheer willpower, forcing themselves to overcome the obstacles that are inhibiting their confidence. Similarly, we need to accept our challenges and suffer through our daily trials as training to resist the temptations that lead us to sin. And, Lent is a perfect time to make this effort!
I include myself in that “we need to”. With several hours of windshield time ahead of me I considered where to begin. Unsure, I simply said out loud, “God, help me see the truth about myself, to uncover my faults and bad habits.” I heard in reply, “Why not start with your roles in life and the responsibilities that go with them? Are you being responsible and if not, why not?”
As though the Lord was sitting in the passenger seat I conversed out loud with Him. I examined my roles as Self, Husband, Father, Son, Brother, Friend, and Disciple. I recognized both my good efforts and those with which I fall short and still had room for improvement.
I was prompted to ask, “Why do I do the things I do?”, which forced me to look for root causes. “That’s just the way I am” was not an acceptable answer. After making a pit-stop, I drew up a list of resolutions and made a note to break them down into concrete baby steps.
Getting back on the road it seemed like I was still missing something. So, I turned to my “passenger” again and asked what other interior obstacles needed examining. It was like the Lord knew I would need to keep my mind occupied on this long trip so He gave me a list:
“Consider your vices and how you can replace them with virtue. How can you be more humble? Maybe replace gluttony with a little temperance? What about focusing on charity to others instead of being so selfish? You know, don’t you, that strengthening one virtue improves the others?
“Take a look at any disordered attachments in your life. What do you treasure that doesn’t bring you closer to Me? Ask yourself why you want it.
“Examine the relationships in your life. How can you improve them? Hint: Remember the two great commandments – how can you love more dearly?
“Is your life balanced? If it feels lop-sided, find out why? What brings stress and anxiety into your life? Is it something that you can change? If so, change it. If not, join your cross to mine and I’ll help you carry it.
And finally, “When you get around to it, come back and ask Me to help you with these. I’ll be glad to. I’ll be here.”
I pulled into my parent’s driveway and remembered reconciliation from Saturday during which I confessed I’d not done well at making a daily examination of conscience and needed to do better. He took me for my word!
I know some sincere resolutions during Lent will help me through the desert of Satan’s temptations. Could it help you, too? Talk to God about it and don’t refuse to accept His help. You can win the battle from within. God bless you!
“Merciful Father, thank You for sending Your Holy Spirit into my life and strengthening my soul so that I may do my part at resisting temptations to sin. Lord, I know that You and my guardian angel are there if I just place my trust in You and call on You for Your assistance. Thank you for being my co-pilot yesterday. Amen.”