Your Conscience. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

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1 Your Conscience When someone asked Jesus which was the most important commandment, he simply pointed to the Scripture and repeated exactly what it said: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. (Mark 12, and Deuteronomy 6) Jesus also said, A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. (Luke 6, 45) In the eyes of Jesus the great Commandment expresses the best way to see ourselves. I live life with my interior self -- my heart and strength and with my exterior, that is, my mind and soul.

2 Jesus then focuses on the heart of a person, and speaks of something already in the heart, before good or evil is done. He even calls it a store and a fullness. Each of us becomes consistent in his or her way of life fundamentally good or bad. We develop a fundamental direction through decision after decision, action after action, and these multiply and gradually shape our way of life, our store of heart-strength. By God s goodness we are born to be fundamentally good, and to move in the direction toward union with God. St. Augustine said it best in his autobiography: You, O Lord, have made us for yourself, and we are restless until we rest in you. Our actions are influenced by our fundamental direction, that is, by what is in our heart, the interior core of oneself. And in turn, repeated actions reinforce that fundamental direction. How should we describe Conscience? Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby a person recognizes the moral quality of an action that he or she is going to perform, is now performing, or has already completed. Conscience is your ability and duty to seek the truth and decide for the truth now. Conscience is a decision you make in the light of the knowledge you have at the present moment.

3 Am I born with a conscience? You are born with the ability to judge the right and wrong of your actions. However, you are not born with a conscience that is formed and ready to go your conscience as it operates today. As you grow up you must put together a set of internalized principles which help you to seek the truth and follow it. Someone once said that a person must build his own conscience, or else wind up using someone else s conscience -- which is not a good idea. What does God have to do with your conscience? It is God who helps you to build it through the Bible, especially the four gospels where you meet Jesus; through your family, Church community, those who help you grow up; through creation itself, and your prayer life, and your daily living. The Formation of Conscience Your conscience operates especially when you are not in a position to look it up. But leading up to the here-and-now decision should be the formation you receive from others, and make your own.

4 The Ten Commandments The moral teachings and the Way of Jesus Christ, found in Scripture. The instruction and guidance of the church community. The example and guidance of your parents and family The example and guidance of teachers and other adults. The guidance of good peers, who give you their friendship and who challenge you to be better. On a day to day basis, many decisions of your conscience will not be between good and evil or right and wrong. Many will be about which good thing is the better path to follow. We can express this by looking at this question: Which of these two things both of which are good in some ways is the better course for me to follow in the present concrete circumstances? As a child you begin with a very simple goal: to win the approval of your parents and of anyone else who is bigger than you.

5 But by family, church and school, you learn rules to live by. To some extent your adult guides, those who love you and look out for you, tell you why the rules are there. You meet moments that test those rules, moments that help you form your principles better. As an adult your conscience is your judgment, here and now, aided by the principles you have formed for yourself about what is the truth and what is false, what is morally right and wrong. Notice the words to seek the truth and follow it. The ultimate truth you are seeking is union with God. You are not neutral. There is truth within you that comes from God. The Ten Commandments 1 I, the Lord, am your God. You shall not have other gods besides me. 2 You shall not take the name of the Lord God in vain. 3 Remember to keep holy the Lord s Day. 4 Honor your father and your mother. 5 You shall not kill. 6 You shall not commit adultery. 7 You shall not steal. 8 You shall not bear false witness. 9 You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. 10 You shall not covet your neighbor's goods.

6 Venial and mortal sin Sin is a failure to love God or to love our neighbor, by deliberately doing something which offends God or harms our neighbor. The wrong can be either an action that we freely do, or good that we should do but refuse to do. By far, most of our sins are venial, that is, they damage our relationship with God and with our neighbor, but not in a such a way that they cause spiritual death. However, each of us is capable of committing a sin that is mortal, an action or a failure whereby a person cuts himself or herself off from God and from the Church. A person commits a mortal sin when he or she is fully aware that an action is seriously wrong, but freely does that action anyway. No single act is committed in isolation from the rest of one s life. No single act is committed apart from a long time of moving toward God or away from God. No one suddenly enters a state of mortal sinfulness. When someone does something seriously wrong, and is somehow aware of being separated from God, that person will soon hear, deep within oneself, a call from God to come home to repent and to be reconciled.

7 One teacher has suggested that there are four D s that make up the act of conscience, when you must make the moral decision: 1 Dig for facts: What's involved? Who? When? Where? Why? What will be the results? What does Jesus say? The Church? My friends? My enemies? The experts? Common sense? What do I sense through prayer? 2 Deliberate between alternatives. 3 Decide one way or the other. 4 Do carry out the decision. Following Jesus Jesus Christ teaches that the ten Commandments, and all morality, Are included in the two highest laws: To love and trust in God above everything else, and to love one another as we love ourselves. We keep that in mind first. Then we try our best to sort out all the complicated circumstances of life and bring the spirit of Jesus to bear. We want his light to shine on our whole life -- all persons, all circumstances, all possibilities. We want our hearts to be ruled by the generosity of Jesus himself. Our calling is to reflect God s image and to bear the likeness of the Son. This is not just a private matter; it also involves our life in the human community. We cannot exist alone. We need other people -- the small communities of family and neighborhood, the larger communities of city, nation and world.

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