How Can You Liberate Your Guilty Conscience? (Gospel Reflection – Jn 20)
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In today’s video reflection, Father Ian VanHeusen presents a spiritual exercise based on Sunday’s Gospel reading.
St. Ignatius of Loyola explains, “By the term “Spiritual Exercises” is meant every method of examination of conscience, of meditation, of contemplation, of vocal and mental prayer, and of other spiritual activities.
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“For just as taking a walk, journeying on foot, and running are bodily exercises, so we call Spiritual Exercises every way of preparing and disposing the soul to rid itself of all inordinate attachments, and, after their removal, of seeking and finding the will of God in the disposition of our life for the salvation of our soul.”
This week, we invite you to first prayerfully read the Gospel for Divine Mercy Sunday Mass, then watch the video, and finally go through Father VanHeusen’s spiritual exercise.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (20:19-31)
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews,
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What are your fears? Are there any memories that rob you of your peace? What are they? Relate them to the Lord and ask yourself what he might say.
Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
Hear the Lord saying these words to you. When you are afraid; when you are suffering…
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
Pray for the grace that you can unleash the Holy Spirit in your life. What do you need from the Holy Spirit?
Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Do you doubt? What are your doubts? Relate them to the Lord.
Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
What do you think St. Thomas was feeling after hearing these words from Jesus? Connect with that emotion.
Now, Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.
1) Imagine how the disciples must have felt after betraying Jesus. Describe what emotions they might have had before encountering the risen Lord.
2) Brainstorm the thought traps, negative ruminations, doubts, and painful memories that rob you of your peace. Talk with Jesus about them.
3) Do you go regularly to confession? Do you struggle with a guilty conscience after confession? If you are going frequently to confession but still struggle with a guilty conscience, take time to talk with Jesus about what troubles you. What do you hear him say? What might the roots of these thought traps be? If you find that you can’t overcome them on your own, seek professional help from a psychologist, therapist, or psychiatrist.
If you would like to print out these questions, we have prepared a downloadable handout version of this Spiritual Exercise. Click the download button bellow.