Examination of Conscience… What role am I playing in Holy Week?

In our church home on Palm Sunday we always hear the passion gospel as a dramatic reading. This interactive (and long) gospel helps to begin Holy Week with the reality of Christ crucified. In this script format, the congregation typically plays the part of the crowds.

I have to admit though, I cringe each year as the crowd is asked to shout, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” I hate being a part of the crowd in that moment, realizing it is my stubborn heart that chooses sin over Christ. It reminds me that each day I choose to play a part in the passion history.


Unnamed and unknown…

As the days of Lent fly on, and holy week is quickly upon us, I am reminded that I have not made time to confess my sins this Lent. I could quickly check this off my list by creating time in my schedule to confess my sins, but I think there is a bigger problem at hand.

I am not aware of the sin in my life. I don’t realize it is pervading my every day, so I don’t make reconciliation a priority. It is not until I am asked to shout the words “crucify him” on Palm Sunday, that I am aware of my sin.

I don’t seek forgiveness, because I don’t name the sin in my life. St Frances de Sales recommends ending each day by first thanking God for preserving you in your day, then mentally walking through everything that has happened, giving thanks to God for all you has gone well, and asking for forgiveness for any way you have gone a miss, resolving to do better next time, and finally commending yourself and all that you hold dear to God, asking for guidance on your road toward heaven.

So I just need to find a way to have these examination moments more often, daily if possible.

There are many ways to perform an examination of Conscience, but they all normally include a series of questions to ask within your prayer routine. Some based on the ten commandmentthe beatitudes, the virtues and vices, or social teaching. There are many ways to examine your day, but they all have the same goal, to notice habits of sin in your life and consciously and specifically choose to do better. To let go, and chose forgiveness and holiness.

Today I am going to offer an examination based on the scenes of passion week.

The Examination…

Palm waver (Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19)

  • Did I act excited about the power of the King, but disregard my call to take up my cross?
  • Did I follow Christ even when I didn’t feel like it?
  • Did I live my life trusting that God was with me and protecting me?
  • Did I over worry about my health, finances, family or job?
  • Do I set up unreasonable expectations for earthly outcomes based on my own desires? 

I resolve to follow the model of Jesus, holding steadfast to faith in the face of hardship.

Judas sitting at the table, knowing he would betray Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16, 20-24;  Mark 14:17-21; Luke 22: 21-23;)

  • Where have I said one thing with my mouth and felt differently in my heart?
  • Have I faked my discipleship or faith in Christ?
  • Have I been dishonest in my speech or actions?
  • Did I value materials things like money, clothes, or my home more than Christ?
  • Did I love God above everyone and everything today?
  • Have I used others for my own personal gain? 

I resolve to follow the model of Jesus, and his unwavering and unreserved love in action.

Disciples arguing over who is the greatest (Luke 22: 24-30)

  • Was I content with my own means and gifts, or did I compare myself to or resent the gifts of others?
  • Was I able to see the goodness and value of my family, friends, coworkers and acquaintances? Was I charitable or uncharitable with anyone today?
  • Do I give God the glory in all of my successes or am I instead seeking acclamation and affirmation of others?
  • Was I grateful for my faith, life, family, friends, housing, work, clothing, transportation, health and food today?
  • Have I leaned on my own power, rather than humble myself to acknowledge my total dependence on God?

I resolve to follow the model of Jesus, a servant leader bending to wash other’s feet.

The disciples asleep in the garden. (Matthew 26:40-46; Mark 14:37-42; Luke 22:45-46 )

  • What did I make more important than prayer?
  • Did I rush through my prayer time?  Did I pray from my heart?
  • Am I procrastinating in following my call from Christ?
  • How was my time spent today: well, disciplined, procrastinating, or wasted?
  • Am I taking care of my physical, spiritual, and emotional needs?
  • How did I respond to my own and others’ grief?

I resolve to follow the model of Jesus, praying with hope, sincerity, and passion. Seeking and choosing the Father’s will above all else.

Disciple cutting off the ear of the guard. (Matthew 26: 51-54; Luke 22:49-53; John 18:10-11)

  • Did I bear wrongs patiently?
  • Have I been angry, aggressive or impatient? Have I been irritable or argumentative? Have I caused division?
  • Am I holding any grudges?
  • Did I indulge in complaining to others?
  • Am I sowing wrath where there should be peace?

I resolve to follow the model of Jesus, bringing peace and healing where there is discord.

Peter denying Christ (Matthew 26: 69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22: 55-65; John 18:17-18, 25-27)

  • Did I allow opportunities to share my faith pass by?
  • Did I hold too highly the opinion of others?
  • How well did I live my vocation as: religious, single, married, mother, father, child, teacher, doctor, business person and any other occupation?
  • Have I honored my spouse, children, family, and friends with my full affection and love?
  • Did I allow fear of others to keep me from doing what God is calling me to do with my life?

I resolve to follow the model of Jesus, dying to myself each day, and choosing to take up my cross.

Jesus brought before the Sanhedrin (Matthew 26: 59-68, Mark 14: 53-65, Luke 22: 66-71; John 18:19-20)

  • Have I allowed my expectations of Christ to distract me from seeing him work in my life?
  • Was my faith founded in legalism, or from a love for Christ?
  • Was I quick to judge others?
  • Was I disproportionately concerned for my own good at the expense of others?
  • Was my criticism harmful and disruptive, or does it build up others in charity?
  • Was I eager for reconciliation, or do I antagonize and yearn for revenge?

I resolve to follow the model of Jesus, extending forgiveness, compassion, and service to those who have disrespected or mistreated me.

Jesus brought before Pontius Pilate (Matthew 27:11-14; Mark 15: 1-5; Luke 23: 1-5; John 18: 28-38)

  • Did I refuse to stand up when faced with injustice?
  • Have I treated others unfairly?
  • Have I turned away from someone who needed my help?
  • Have I failed to act with integrity, sincerity, and respect?
  • Did I follow my conscience or succumb to peer pressure?

I resolve to follow the model of Jesus, standing up for those most vulnerable and acting with integrity.

The men holding Jesus in custody ridicule and beat him (Matthew 27:27-31; Mark 15:16-20; Luke 22:63-65; John 18:22, 19: 1-3 )

  • Have I put Jesus to the test?
  • Do I recognize the face of Christ reflected in all around me whatever their race, class, age, or abilities?
  • Have I used my power or authority to lord over another?
  • Have I put another down or rejoiced in other’s misfortune?
  • Have I harmed anyone through physical, verbal, or emotional means, including manipulation of any kind?

I resolve to follow the model of Jesus, bearing wrongs patiently and seeing the dignity of each human person.

The crowd sentencing Jesus to death (Matthew 27:17-26; Mark 15: 6-15; Luke 23:18-25; John 18:39-40; 19:6-16)

  • Did I rejoice in any wrongdoing?
  • Did I gossip today or engage in unconstructive chatter?
  • Have I gone along with the crowd when I knew it was wrong?
  • Did I bear others’ burdens?
  • Did I extend compassion to those in need?

I resolve to follow the model of Jesus, remaining faithful to my call when it is unpopular.

The scattered disciples during the crucifixion (Matthew 27: 33-44; Mark 15: 22-32; Luke 23: 33-44; John 19: 17-37)

  • Do I face my fears to overcome them, or do I seek to avoid them?
  • Have I treated people, events, or things as more important than God?
  • Do I endure trials, even embracing them as they draw me closer to God?

I resolve to follow the model of Jesus on the cross, offering myself to others in vulnerability, heartbreak, and truth.

I chose the willingness of Simon the Cyrenian, the faithfulness of the women at the cross, the belief of the crucified criminal, and the joyous evangelization of the disciples of the resurrection.  “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Last thoughts…

It is important to remember, that when the examination of conscious reveals missteps, you have a Father who is entirely merciful and so desperately wants to offer you forgiveness. Name it, claim it, and let it go. You are new creation! “It is finished.”

St. Paul instructed an examination of conscious as often as you take the eucharist (1 Corinthians 11:28-31).  And the early church father’s continued this tradition, all including it in their spiritual practices. St. Augustine wrote that, “The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works.” St. Ignatius of Loyola considered the examination of conscience as the single most important spiritual exercise. St. Bernard taught: “As a searching investigator of the integrity of your own conduct, submit your life to a daily examination. Consider carefully what progress you have made or what ground you have lost. Strive to know yourself. Place all your faults before your eyes. Come face to face with yourself, as though you were another person, and then weep for your faults.”



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