Advent is a time of preparation, when we make ready to celebrate the mystery of our Lord’s coming as man, the beginning of our redemption. Advent also moves us to look forward with renewed hope to the second coming of Christ, when God’s plan of salvation will be brought to fulfillment. We are reminded too of our Lord’s coming to each one of us at the hour of our death. We must make sure that he will find us prepared for his coming, as the gospel tells us: “Blessed are those servants who are found awake when the Lord comes” [Luke 12:37]. This service of penance is meant to make us ready in mind and heart for the coming of Christ, which we are soon to celebrate in the Mass of Christmas.
We gather because we are confident that God is merciful. We have this confidence because, in every age, God has shown his justice and his mercy. When his chosen people erred, he sent prophets to call them back. He sent John the Baptist to call sinners to repentance and to announce the coming of the Savior. And in his greatest act of merciful love, God sent his only Son to live among us, to preach of the Father’s love, and to set us free from sin and death. God continues to save his people and Christ continues to be present to us, especially in the Church’s sacraments. And in this sacrament of reconciliation, though we cannot grasp the richness of his grace nor depth of his compassion, God continues to offer us his mercy.
Examination of Conscience
Do I harbor unreasonable suspicions or unfair judgments against my neighbors?
Have I spoken uncharitably about another’s defects or shortcomings?
Have I been lazy or neglectful in my prayer life or in my attendance at Mass?
Are my affections for others disordered in any way?
Am I vain in esteem for myself, or in things that pertain to me?
Have I received the Sacraments in a careless way, without serious preparation?
Have I been resentful or impatient in accepting disappointments?
Have I put obstacles in the way of God’s will for me? Have I been involved in activities that blemish my purity and the purity of others?
Am I dishonest about my own bad inclinations, weaknesses and mortifications?
Do I seek to pursue virtue guided by my own whims, rather than
looking to the teachings of the Church?
Act of Contrition
The Act of Contrition can be recited anytime one experiences sorrow for sin. It is often recited during or after the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart; in choosing to do wrong, and failing to do good, I have sinned against you Lord whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend to sin no more and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In His name, my God, have mercy.