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The sacrament of reconciliation (confession) is our opportunity to receive the assurance of forgiveness through God’s mercy for our sins and to be reconciled with the Church community. Going to confession is a spiritually and emotionally positive experience where we receive and feel God’s love, renew our baptismal innocence, get advice for the soul, and clear our consciences. It’s a good thing! 

Fr. John will be available to hear confessions privately with you at 3:30 PM before the liturgy of Word and Sacrament for those who would like to avail themselves of this sacramental grace. 

To prepare for a good confession, whether for the sacrament or in your own prayers, you may use the following guide for self-examination.


A Helpful Guide for Daily Use and before the Sacrament of Reconciliation 


Part 1: An Introduction to and Reasons for the Practice of Self-Examination


Self-examination is a process that involves reflecting on the ways in which our lives could be more in line with God’s will, repenting for where we have gone astray, and receiving God’s forgiveness. It is living out Psalm 139: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”


Specifically in the Anglican tradition, we emphasize this discipline as we prepare for the Eucharist. St. Paul first exhorted us in this regard in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29: “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”


The Didache, the earliest manual we have for how a Christian community was supposed to operate (dating likely to the late 1st century), similarly exhorts Christians:


“Assemble on the Lord’s Day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until they have been reconciled so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations.’” 

Fast forward several centuries to our Book of Common Prayer (2019), and we see not only a time of confession within each Daily Office and Communion service, as you all are already familiar with, but also a section called “The Exhortation” (found on pp. 147-148) which offers encouragement for preparation for Holy Communion. We would encourage you to read all of these, but for the sake of brevity, let’s look at one key part related to the topic of self-examination: 

“Dearly beloved in the Lord: if you intend to come to the Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of our Savior Jesus Christ, you must consider how Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, exhorts us all diligently to examine ourselves before we presume to eat of that Bread, and drink of that Cup. For as the benefit is great, if we receive that holy Sacrament with a truly penitent heart and lively faith, spiritually eating the Flesh of Christ and drinking his Blood, so that we might be made one with Christ and he with us; so also is the danger great, if we receive these gifts unworthily. For then we become guilty of profaning the Body and Blood of Christ our Savior, and we eat and drink to our own condemnation.” (p.147)


A couple clarifying notes are needed. First, let’s remember Paul’s encouragement that “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). These times of reflection and confession are not meant to leave us in condemnation, shame, or excessive guilt. In every confession, God meets us with an abundance of grace and love. His desire is to see us thrive as image-bearers and not to beat us up for our imperfections. So for those who have a tendency towards self-criticism and shame, it is vital to examine yourself in light of God’s love, to hope for the future rather than despair over the past.


Also, there was a time in church history when Paul’s exhortation to not receive the Eucharist “unworthily” led to people being afraid of taking Communion. “What if I’m not perfectly right with all my neighbors? What if I have a habitual sin that is tough to break?” The church was clear in its response to this concern: The Eucharist should not be neglected. The gift of Christ’s body and blood, the real presence of Christ somehow mysteriously working in and through the Sacrament, is a grace that all of us imperfect Christians need. In fact, the third Exhortation on p. 148 of the BCP addresses this point exactly: 

“If you have come here today with a troubled conscience, and you need help and counsel, come to me, or to some other Priest, and confess your sins, that you may receive godly counsel, direction, and absolution. To do so will both satisfy your conscience and remove any scruples or doubt.”


So then, let us boldly go to the Communion Table as an act of gratitude, obedience, and even sustenance, but let us also take seriously this gift by examining ourselves and repenting beforehand. 


Part 2: Using the Ten Commandments as a Guide for Self-Examination


In the Exhortation in the BCP, it instructs us to “examine your life by the rule of God’s commandments.” Throughout the centuries, Christians have practiced self-examination by focusing on the Ten Commandments. This would involve a person reading a commandment and reflecting on how to align their life more fully with that commandment. As was said in part 1, our reflections and repentance should all be done in the context of God’s love, grace, and forgiveness.


1. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.”  

What other gods am I worshipping? Money, power, myself, my rights, my vocation, alcohol or drugs, sensual desires, my family?


2. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them.”  

What images am I building or worshipping? A comfortable lifestyle, wealth, a nice home, possessions, prestige, reputation, nationalism? Do I do all that I can to promote and support the true worship of God? Have I made an idol in my heart by worshipping a god with whom I can be pleased, rather than the God who is revealed in holy Scripture?  

3. “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”  

Do I use the name of God in an irreverent manner? Do I live in such a manner that the name of God is blasphemed or held in contempt because of my actions?  Do I fail to perform the promises and vows I have made in the name of God?  Since I bear the name of Christ, do I profane his name by hypocritical actions?  Do I speak with contempt for God by murmuring and complaining about the wise, providential ordering of my life?


4. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”  

Do I worship God in his Church every Sunday unless providentially hindered?  Do I make it a point to work diligently to have all my worldly affairs completed in the other six days in the week so that I might observe the Lord’s Day without distractions?   Do I make it a point to enter the house of God with the proper reverence?  When in the house of God, do I sing, pray, and listen to the word of God with all my heart and soul? Do I prepare myself and my family for Holy Communion by a remembrance of all the benefits we receive by a worthy reception of it? 

5. “Honor your father and your mother.”  

Do I show respect and reverence toward my parents or in-laws in thought, word, and behavior?  Do I listen with respect to the advice and counsel of my parents?  Do I ever reveal a spirit of disrespect toward my parents?  Do I pray for my parents?  Do I do what I can to provide for my parents' needs when they are in physical, emotional, or spiritual distress? Am I teaching my children to respect their elders? Am I being a good steward of the intangible gifts that have been handed down to me? 

6. “You shall not murder.”  

Do I show the proper respect for the lives of others, including the elderly, disabled, and unborn, realizing that they are created in the image of God?  Am I guilty of sins, such as envy, hatred, a desire for revenge, unkind thoughts and words toward others?  Have I caused others to have hateful or malicious thoughts toward their acquaintances?  Do I take care of my own body as the temple of the Holy Spirit so that it might be a fit vessel for the Lord’s use?  Do I do what is within my power to preserve the lives of others? 

7. “You shall not commit adultery.”  

Do I commit adultery in my heart through lustful thoughts, desires, and looks? Through exposing myself to opportunities for lustful thoughts and actions? Do I watch or am I addicted to pornography? Do I help others (especially young people) understand their sexuality? Am I developing an unhealthy relationship with another person? Do I act on or entertain sexual immorality, like homosexuality, gender confusion, or any other act against God’s design for sexual expression outside of monogamous marriage between a man and a woman? Have I been faithful to my spouse in thought, word, and deed? 

8. “You shall not steal.” 

Do I honor my vows and contracts?  Am I honest in my business dealings with others? Do I rob God by not giving as I am able to the Church for the spreading of His kingdom?  Do I give my employer my diligent service so that I am worthy of the wages paid?  In my dealings with others, have I been guilty of fraud, falsehood, injustice, extortion, or bribery? Do you steal from others via careless or over-consumption of food or natural resources?


9. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”  

Have I slandered the good name of my neighbor?  Have I concealed the truth when I should have spoken?  Did I at least not lie? Have I been guilty of gossip or slander? Have I failed to defend others when wrongly accused?  

10. “You shall not covet.”  

Have I been guilty of discontent when I look at the prosperity of others?  Can I rejoice at their prosperity? Do I ever have a “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality? Am I grateful for and content with what I have? Do I have gratitude to God for his provisions? 

Go in peace. The Lord has put away all your sins.

Thanks be to God.

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