Year In Review – A Yearly Examen

Catholic blogger Philip Kosloski wrote a cool little article about making a Yearly Examen. Most people are familiar with the Daily Examen which is a part of Ignatian Spirituality.  I try to make an effort to do a nightly examen but I admit, I fail a lot at this.

But a Yearly Examen – Brilliant and doable. As much as we are inclined to make New Years Resolutions, how often do we actually review the year that was in order to learn how we can improve ourselves for the coming year?

Here’s Kosloski’s adaptation for his Yearly Examen:

  1. First, give thanks to God for all the many blessings received over the past year. Go through each month, dwelling upon the good and thanking God for it.
  2. Second, ask for the grace to know your sins and failings and renounce them. Go through each month and do this. 
  3. Third, review your year again, month-by-month, and recognize your feelings, thoughts and movements of the heart. There will be certain people and events that strike a chord (for good or for ill). Bring those people or events to God and ask Him why they stand out. Ask God for the grace to see His providence in all things. Nothing happens by chance.
  4. Fourth, ask pardon of God for any sins. Also, do not only ask God for forgiveness, but also ask God for the grace to forgive yourself.
  5. Fifth, look forward to the next year and ask God for the grace to amend your life.

While 2015 is still fresh in your mind, you should make a point to do your own yearly examen. It looks a little daunting but it shouldn’t take you too long.  In the meantime, here are my own little thoughts on this exercise:

As for me, personally, Step number 1 is the easiest part. I made a point this past year to try and remain positive and always be grateful for the littlest things. Someone got me a “Grateful Journal”  where you write something every day that you’re thankful for/something good that happened to you. or an answered prayer for someone else. When you read that every day, it’s hard to remain bitter and depressed.

The second step – A little difficult, I mean who wants to face their sins and failings head on like that? But, I understand why it’s a necessary step. We aren’t perfect, as much as we try to be.

The third step – By far my favorite step. Certain events that “struck a chord” for good were plentiful this year. Pretty sure TOB is at the top of the list. But there were a few that still make me feel sick to my stomach every time I think about them (friendships ending, death of loved ones, betrayal of people I trusted).

The most difficult step though, for me, has to be the 4th. The grace to forgive yourself is far more difficult, I think, than asking God for forgiveness.  Pretty sure this has a lot to do with my self-deprecating humor I adopted a few years ago. It’s easier to make fun of yourself and downplay your successes than to actually believe you’re good at something or are a good person. And when that happens you tend to dwell on your faults a lot more than give yourself some credit for your improvements. Sigh…

The fifth step – Hallelujah!  I AM looking forward to a new year, especially since I have thing for even numbers. 2015 always sounded strange to me. Twenty-sixeteen has a nice ring to it, don’t you think? 😉

Seven times Seventy

Matthew 18:21-35

Peter approached Jesus and asked him,
“Lord, if my brother sins against me,
how often must I forgive him?
As many as seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.
That is why the Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king
who decided to settle accounts with his servants.
When he began the accounting,
a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.
Since he had no way of paying it back,
his master ordered him to be sold,
along with his wife, his children, and all his property,
in payment of the debt.
At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’
Moved with compassion the master of that servant
let him go and forgave him the loan.
When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants
who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding,
‘Pay back what you owe.’
Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him,
‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’
But he refused.
Instead, he had him put in prison
until he paid back the debt.
Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened,
they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master
and reported the whole affair.
His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!
I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.
Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant,
as I had pity on you?’
Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers
until he should pay back the whole debt.
So will my heavenly Father do to you,
unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

From the New Life Study Bible: The rabbis taught that people should forgive those who offend them – but only three times. Peter, trying to be especially generous, asked Jesus if seven (the “perfect” number) was enough times to forgive someone. But Jesus answered, “Seventy times seven,” meaning that we shouldn’t even keep track of how many times we forgive someone. We should always forgive those who are truly repentant, no matter how many times they ask.

Fit In Your Faith Today: How quickly do you forgive someone who says they are sorry for hurting you? If they never say they are sorry, do you forgive them anyways? What if you know someone who is a repeat offender, someone who keeps wronging or hurting you. Do you forgive them or do you hold a grudge? It’s not easy to forgive others, especially when you think they aren’t even sorry. But holding a grudge and holding on to that pain will only make things worse. Do as Jesus has told us, and forgive them no matter what.

Bonus Material: 7×70 by Chris August – An awesome song by one of my favorite Christian singers.

A Forgiving Spirit

Luke 6:36-38

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Stop judging and you will not be judged.
Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and gifts will be given to you;
a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing,
will be poured into your lap.
For the measure with which you measure
will in return be measured out to you.”

The amount that we give will determine the amount given back to us in return. How much do you give? For those who give of their time and their hearts and their abilities, this is great news. For all that we give, we’ll be given back in return! And isn’t that usually the case? Sometimes it’s not right away – most times we have to wait patiently for it to come back to us. Some call it karma. I like to think it’s God. 🙂

But what about those times when we don’t do much good? What about those times that maybe we didn’t treat that stranger with respect. Or maybe that time we passed the donation basket down the pew when we knew we had a few bucks to spare? Or, that time we judged someone we just met based on their background or their accent or their clothing. We probably wish we could go back and do differently.

The good news is, it’s never too late. We can put some money in the basket at the next mass, we can give that stranger a smile next time we see them, or we can re-introduce ourselves to that person we misjudged. And for those “bigger” sins? We can confess and ask God to forgive us and the peace to move on.

Fit In Your Faith Today: As Lent continues, take stock of what you’re doing right now that is good. Are you shining your light on to others? Or are you still in the darkness of contempt or disappointment or shame? It’s time to be compassionate just as our Father is compassionate and merciful. Be merciful to others but also to yourself!

Falling Short while Looking Up

Romans 3:23-24

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 

Today’s verses really hit the nail on the head as far as sin goes: We all fall short. We all sin. You can categorize some sins into “Big” and “Little” sins but in the end, we all fall short of His standard. Even Paul recognized this in his letter to the Roman.

It’s somewhat of a relief to read this though, because we probably put a lot of pressure on ourselves to live up to certain expectations; maybe from our spouses or parents or co-workers and friends. We might fall short in those relationships, too. But it’s comforting to know that God understands that as humans, we are not perfect and will have moments of walking away from God. In those moments of sin, we aren’t living up to His expectations.

But there’s Good News: He declares that we are righteous. When God forgives our sins, our record is wiped clean. As the Deacon at my parish told me just yesterday, “God can read our hearts.”  When we stray, and we confess that we have strayed, God welcomes us back. He can read our hearts that we are sorry.

So while you may feel you are falling short, remember to look up. Look up to Him, confess, be forgiven, and walk the path of righteousness that God has set for you.

Fit In Your Faith Today: Where are you falling short, not just in God’s eyes, but in other parts of your life? We are not perfect but we can strive to be better Christians by looking up to God, before we fall down and sin again. Confess and be forgiven, then get up again.

 

Making a Path Through the Wilderness

Isaiah 43:18-19

“But forget all that – it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.

Good News Translation

But the Lord says, “Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already – you can see it now! I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there.”

These scripture verses give us hope. We are told to forget the past and all that has already taken place. That’s old news. He is already working toward a new plan for us!

Do you rehash and constantly replay past events in your mind? Things that may have hurt you or caused you sadness or anger? We tend to do this when we’ve had an argument or disagreement with someone:

“I can’t believe the way that Bob embarrassed me at the meeting! I’m never going to let him live that down.”

“Mary didn’t me to invite me to her daughters birthday party last week. And she had such a lame excuse when I asked her about it! I’m so hurt by this. Why do friends act this way?”

“I don’t like the way Suzanne looked at me when I saw her at the PTA meeting. What’s her problem? I’ll remember this the next time she asks a favor from me.”

We can’t hold a grudge forever, we have to move on. If someone hurts us, they should apologize. But what if we never get that apology? We have to figure out a way to move on and move past the hurt and the pain. It’s time to get on a new plan that God has set for us.

Appreciate the last sentence: “I will make a road through the wilderness and give you streams of water there.”

You can visualize the struggles, the arguments and the pain as the wilderness. You’re making your way through it now with no end in sight. But you can relax as the Lord says that He will provide us with streams of water, relief is in sight! He tells us He has already started to help us, we just have to have faith He will lead us out of this “wilderness,” this dark time in our life.

Fit In You Faith Today: If you’re dwelling on the past, living in the past, and can’t seem to find your way out of the past, pray for the strength to move forward. If someone never apologized for hurting you, forgive them anyways. Even if you don’t tell them out loud that you forgive them, forgive them in your mind. You can then find your way out of the “wilderness” to the “streams of water” that God has waiting for you.