Restless Conscience

Challenge: Sacrifice a personal preference that you know has sometimes been for me an occasion to sin.
by Father Shane Lambert, LC | Source:

September 25, 2008
Thursday of the Twenty-Fifth Week in Ordinary Time

Luke 9: 7-9
Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was happening, and he was greatly perplexed because some were saying, "John has been raised from the dead"; others were saying, "Elijah has appeared"; still others, "One of the ancient prophets has arisen." But Herod said, "John I beheaded. Who then is this about whom I hear such things?" And he kept trying to see him.

Introductory Prayer: Lord, in this Jubilee Year of Saint Paul, I turn to you with renewed zeal for the salvation of souls. I believe in you and your love for me. Teach me to live and spread the Catholic faith ardently. Increase my faith, hope, and love so that I may exclaim with Saint Paul, “yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).

Petition: Lord Jesus, grant me the grace always to remain faithful to my conscience, in order to fulfill your will and experience the peace of soul that only you can give.

1. The Way, The Truth, The Life
Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). Today’s Gospel passage shows us how Jesus, even at a great distance, provokes questions of conscience about life, truth, and moral living. In Herod’s case, he has become perplexed.
The Universal Catechism teaches a basic truth about conscience: “By his reason, man recognizes the voice of God which urges him ‘to do what is good and avoid what is evil.’ Everyone is obliged to follow this law, which makes itself heard in conscience and is fulfilled in the love of God and of neighbor. Living a moral life bears witness to the dignity of the person” (CCC 1706). The choice presented by conscience, therefore, is between good and evil. The Christian, who has fought to choose what is good, knows that his witness will provoke others to examine their conscience. St. Paul explains this deep Christian conviction: “Rather, we have renounced shameful, hidden things; not acting deceitfully or falsifying the word of God, but by the open declaration of the truth we commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even though our gospel is veiled, it is veiled for those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that they may not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:2-4).

2. Consequences of Bad Choice
John the Baptist appeared in Herod’s life to chastise his wicked lifestyle and to attract him to a life of grace: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” (Matthew 3:2); “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:18); “Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody … so when he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him” (Mark 6:20). Nonetheless, Herod committed an evil act against his conscience. He beheaded John the Baptist and served his head on a silver platter to his adulterous “wife” after lusting over her daughter in public. The “truth” that Herod knew, therefore, was that John the Baptist was dead. A dead man, presumably, cannot come back to life. However, conscience speaks not just about truth; rather, it judges regarding the good or evil of an act – before, during, and even after the fact. The Universal Catechism teaches: “…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” (CCC 1781). So Herod simultaneously recognizes his wickedness, while experiencing curiosity at a man who suggests a certain “resurrection from the dead” – hope, perhaps, in an eventual forgiveness of his personal sin.

3. Choosing Good and Persevering in Good
For every soul, salvation ultimately rests upon choosing and persevering in good: choosing to repent from evil; choosing particular goods; deciding to continue choosing what is good, despite how costly it is. In today’s Gospel, because of Christ’s appearance on the scene, Herod is being given a second chance to repent. Grace remains attractive, even to the soul who is dead in sin. “And [Herod] kept trying to see him.” Christ bears witness to the way, the truth and the life. The saints, too, bear witness to this upright conscience and life of grace. But on the last day, when the “time of mercy” expires, the conscience of each soul will be judged by God. So we would best heed what St. Paul instructs St. Timothy in this regard: “I entrust this charge to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophetic words once spoken about you. Through them may you fight a good fight by having faith and a good conscience. Some, by rejecting conscience, have made a shipwreck of their faith” (1Tim 1:18-19).

Conversation with Christ: Lord Jesus, I repent of my sinfulness and seek to persevere in what is good. Purify my soul, strengthen my weak will and instill me with fortitude. Grant me the grace of final perseverance – fighting the good fight, living with an upright conscience, and transmitting to others the peace of soul that you give me.

Resolution: Today I will sacrifice a personal preference that I know has sometimes been for me an occasion to sin.

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