The gift of conscienceSunday Mass Readings Podcast of the Readings Video of Reflections on ReadingsLecturas y Comentarios Sunday Online Bible StudyPrayer of the HoursBurning Question: "Is it Better to Pray or To Study the Faith?"
Sunday Readings for Oct. 3, 2010 (27C)
By Father Cusick
The apostles implore the Lord Jesus to increase their faith. He makes clear that faith will grow for those who are generous with their time, talents and treasure for the sake of the Lord and the kingdom of heaven.
"Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to Timothy: 'Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.' (1 Tim 1:18-19.) To live, grow, and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith;(Cf. Mk 9:24; Lk 17:5;22:32.) it must be 'working through charity,' abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church.(Gal 5:6; Rom 15:13; cf. Jas 2:14-26.)"
Faith can be lost; it is a gift and thus can be refused. St. Paul uses a dramatic image, evoking a battle or disaster at sea by saying, "Some have made shipwreck of their faith." He explains how: "By rejecting conscience."
What do the Church and St. Paul mean when speaking of "conscience"?"Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that man perceives and recognizes the prescriptions of the divine law:
"Conscience is a law of the mind; yet [Christians] would not grant that it is nothing more; I mean that it was not a dictate, nor conveyed the notion of responsibility, of duty, of a threat and a promise. . . . [Conscience] is a messenger of him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by his representatives. Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ. (John Henry Cardinal Newman, Letter to the Duke of Norfolk)"
Conscience is given by God for man and woman's dignity, created in the divine likeness."Conscience enables one to assume responsibility for the acts performed. If man commits evil, the just judgment of conscience can remain within him as the witness to the universal truth of the good, at the same time as the evil of his particular choice. The verdict of the judgment of conscience remains a pledge of hope and mercy. In attesting to the fault committed, it calls to mind the forgiveness that must be asked, the good that must still be practiced, and the virtue that must be constantly cultivated with the grace of God: "We shall . . . reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (1 Jn 3:19-20)"
Some describe the witness of their conscience as the "feeling" of guilt. Rather than choosing to indulge in the uselessness of guilty "feelings" man and woman are invited instead to see the tugging of their conscience as "a pledge of hope and mercy". Our merciful Father calls us to return to Him through the gift of conscience. How does one have an upright, or morally correct, conscience?"Conscience must be informed and moral judgment enlightened. A well-formed conscience is upright and truthful. It formulates its judgments according to reason, in conformity with the true good willed by the wisdom of the Creator. The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings."
The ten commandments, as well as all the moral teachings of the Scriptures taught by the Church and codified in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, are some of the sources for properly informing one's conscience. Learning right and wrong begins early in life but continues as long as one lives."The education of the conscience is a lifelong task. From the earliest years, it awakens the child to the knowledge and practice of the interior law recognized by conscience. Prudent education teaches virtue; it prevents or cures fear, selfishness and pride, resentment arising from guilt, and feelings of complacency, born of human weakness and faults. The education of the conscience guarantees freedom and engenders peace of heart."
The fruits of a properly formed conscience are serenity and confidence as the faithful pursue a state of grace by living the virtues, seeking forgiveness in Confession when conscience accuses of grave sin, and looking forward in hope and joy to glory in the life of heaven without end.
(See also Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph number 162.)