In Freedom and Forgiveness: A Fresh Look at the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Fr. Paul Farren suggests that just as there are two great commandments, there are only two great sins – the sin of Adam and Eve and the sin of the Innkeeper – and that all other sins are a manifestation of these two. He describes the sin of Adam and Eve as wanting to be God and not allowing God to be God. The sin may be manifest in many ways, but always involves a failure to accept ourselves as the loved creation of God. Farren describes the sin of the Innkeeper as not having space for the poor and those who are in need, failing to live as a community of love, a community of people in relationship.
Thus, when we are examining our conscience, we are asking where we have failed to live the two great commandments of love – facing those times we have committed the sin of Adam and Eve (breaking the commandment to love God) and the sin of the Innkeeper (breaking the commandment to love our neighbor).
Farren further suggests we might engage in an examination of conscience using as our basis the story of the story of the rich young man in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 10:17:22). Here is the examination he suggests:
The rich young man knelt before Jesus.
Do I acknowledge Jesus in my life? Do I have space for God?
Do I seek, respect and respond to his Word?
The rich young man wanted to inherit eternal life.
Do I want to be close to Jesus always?
Do I want to do the best I can with the gift of my life?
Do I believe that I can accept the gift of heaven by the way I live on earth?
Jesus asked the rich young man did he keep the Ten Commandments?
Do I keep the Ten Commandments?
Do i realize that rather than stopping me doing things they free me to be myself?
Do I respect myself as the beautiful creation that God made me?
Jesus looked steadily at the rich young man and loved him.
Do I believe that Jesus looks at me and loves me?
Do I believe that Jesus invites me to share in his life?
Do I believe that Jesus believes in me?
Jesus told the rich young man to sell everything he had and give the money to the poor.
Do I make space for Jesus in my life through loving and caring for others?
Do I recognize the face of Jesus in those who are marginalized, disrespected, those who live in poverty and those who are vulnerable?
Do I recognize everybody in the world as my sister or brother equal in the eyes of God?
Jesus then told the rich young man to follow Jesus.
Do I believe that Jesus has a plan for my life? Do I make an effort to discover that plan? Do I trust Jesus enough to accept his plan?
The rich young man went away sad.
Do I choose the way of Jesus or do my own thing?
Do I allow God to be God in my life and do I welcome Jesus into my life?
You doubtless have other ways you engage in an examination of conscience, whether in preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation or otherwise. But this struck me as a helpful way of going about the process.