Pope Francis on the Grace of Examination of Conscience

The Holy Father said Tuesday that the capacity and willingness for us to judge ourselves is ‘a Christian virtue.’

(photo: 2013 CNA/Elise Harris/CNA)

VATICAN CITY — The capacity of all men to commit the most despicable of sins should inspire the self-awareness necessary to accept God’s mercy and move forward in the Christian life, Pope Francis said.

“We are all sinners,” the Holy Father said in his Lenten homily at the St. Martha guest residence chapel on March 2. He added that it is “a Christian virtue” to be able to judge oneself, according to Vatican Radio’s translation.

The Holy Father centered his reflection on the theme of mercy, as found in the day’s Mass readings, such as the Gospel of Luke, in which Jesus tells his followers, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

To judge oneself means “not hiding from the roots of sin that are in all of us, the many things we are capable of doing, even if we cannot see them,” Pope Francis said.

While it is “easier to blame others” for our sins, he continued, it promotes interior peace and health to consider what “we are capable of doing,” even if, at first, “we feel disgust.”

“We are all masters, professors of self-justification” and “have an alibi to explain away our shortcomings, our sins,” while putting on “an innocent face,” he said.

“This is no way to lead a Christian life.”

One example the Pope gave of the wisdom which comes from being able to judge oneself is “when I feel envy in my heart” and know that this leads to being “capable of speaking ill of others and morally assassinating them.”

This is an essential lesson for the Christian, the Pope said: “If we do not learn this first step in life, we will never, never be able to take other steps on the road of our Christian life, of our spiritual life.”

He presented another example of passing by a prison and thinking the inmates within deserve to be there.

“Yet do you know that if it weren’t for the grace of God you would be there?” the Holy Father asked. “Did you ever think that you are capable of doing the things that they have done, even worse?”

Pope Francis went on to reflect on the importance of shame before God, a theme in the Book of Daniel: “O Lord, we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes and our fathers, for having sinned against you. But yours, O Lord, our God, are compassion and forgiveness!”

“This Lent, it would do us all good to have this dialogue with the Lord,” in which we accuse ourselves, the Pope said. “Let us ask for mercy.”

Pope Francis turned back to the Gospel reading, in which Jesus says: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.”

“But who am I to judge, if I am able to do things that are worse?” the Pope asked.

The Holy Father concluded his homily, asking God this Lent to “give us the grace to learn to judge ourselves,” in light of our capacity to do the “the most evil things,” and to pray: “Have mercy on me, Lord; help me to be ashamed and grant me mercy, so I may be merciful to others.”

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