THE ENQUIRING CONSCIENCE IN THE YEAR OF MERCY
To pose a question, to seek clarity and to enrich oneself with proper and adequate information is being human and part of our inner desire. Not only do we seek new knowledge about others and about things but, depending on how the questions are raised and manner in which we journey to true knowledge we also acquire an understanding about the self. The choice of information, the times and moments of self-questioning, the sincerity and how deeply we reach inside ourselves will insightfully help in self-understanding, and in navigating the dimensions of our being and our perspectives.
Thus the success of joyfully living enquiring moments is to first establish good will and the right reason as a way of discerning our habits of conscience, mind and will itself. We journey through different experiences as we seek right understanding and right judgment to «do good and avoid evil» which Gaudium et spes and the Catechism speak of as the adage of our conscience. This is a call to a life of good moral and spiritual deeds that are formed and informed by the desire of good formation and knowledge for the authentic development of the corpore et anima unus (body and soul) in all aspects of relationships. Hence a good moral and spiritual conscience is the platform, the ground and foundation of real encounter between our humanity, fragility and desire, and the gracious omnipresence of God and divine gifts.
The supposed ever-present good quality of conscience, formed and informed with knowledge and values, immersed in love and mercy, is an ongoing moral-spiritual project. It constantly reflects on the gracious loving presence of God, seeking growth and development, journeying to become better because it has the presence, reference and authority of the Creator (Ps 32,7; 139,7-12). The fidelity, wisdom and love «deep within one’s conscience» are the foundation of being in touch with the divine law, the discovery of the «divine voice» that calls to love, to authenticity and mercy, responding to values and to «solidarietatis et caritatis» (solidarity and charity). Our enquiring conscience has to embrace the «most secret core and sanctuary» of the value of our being and conscience in moral upbringing by preserving its dignity and vocation towards values and virtues.
The well-being of our conscience in the Year of Mercy is the re-activation of the path that invokes the tenderness of our life in our moral-spiritual vocation and responsibilities. A true enquiring conscience views itself in the totality of life’s responsibilities that are freely loved and accepted in one’s inner being. Hence our moral and spiritual catechesis, in response to a good conscience, will be of help in two ways:
The first mode of a good and loving conscience is to live the spiritual works of mercy. The energy, the joy and the sense of purpose of conscience invites, appeals and enriches the soul as it longs for truthfulness and goodness. A value oriented conscience, seeking God and in communion and solidarity with others will prompt ways of «admonishing sinners, instructing the uninformed, counseling the doubtful and comforting the sorrowful». A conscientious person responding to his/her vocation and making love a lived reality (cf. 1 Cor 13) «is patient with those in error, forgives offences and prays for the living and the dead». Hence our true and loving enquiring conscience is not at ease with what negates and hinders participation or what does not contribute to the moral and spiritual growth of the person. In the spiritual works of mercy our loving conscience seeks something deeper that is valuable and inspired by the living presence of the Spirit of our Lord.
The journey of a merciful conscience in the realm of the spirit is to encounter the body as the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6, 19-20). Human conscience, as the secret core and sanctuary, unites us with the divine, and as it is loving and compassionate unites the spirit and the body in the unfolding of relationship with others. Therefore, the level of growth, the charity and generosity of the conscience will query my involvement in «feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, sheltering the homeless, visiting those in prison, comforting the sick and burying of the dead». This loving and merciful conscience opens doors of involvement and participation, contributing to wholeness and healing of both body and soul.
Which self-questioning conscience that pursues good will distance itself from all these when they are part and parcel of the vocation and responsibility of conscience? The place of me alone with my God is not individualistic, solitary, secluded and detached. The enquiring conscience in its truthfulness and goodness is communitarian in character and in dimension, and «in a wonderful manner conscience reveals that law which is fulfilled by love of God and neighbour». This is how the attitudes, feelings, attachments and orientations of this sacred and secret core are proved to be authentic and true before God and expressions of moral and spiritual qualities and values. It is true then that a good, genuine, merciful and loving conscience always goes a step further, crossing the limitations and boundaries of thought because what is in the conscience promises something bigger and greater, that which is true and profound in authentic moral-spiritual growth and development.
The Year of Mercy touches the deepest parts of our consciences. It reminds us of our qualities and strengths, of our vulnerability and fragility, also our human journey both in moral and spiritual responsibility. It calls us to remember that we are creatures created out of love and mercy and called to loving and merciful relationships. It recalls to our consciences the necessarily authentic journey that we are to make, preparing a moral-spiritual environment for the flourishing of our inner selves, our communities and others.
The new awareness of the enquiring conscience in the Year of Mercy leads me to ask myself ‘how far and often have I failed in my vocation of loving good and hating evil’. Has my conscience turned into an evil conscience by doing evil and avoiding good? What is the conversation and plan of my conscience (Ps 36, 1-4): is it avoiding sin, immorality and their occasions? How strong and how weak is God’s voice in my conscience, the voice of living a true desire to seek and do good? How has the secret core and the sanctuary been a place of good, true and loving plans and intentions? Is my conscience walking alone and by itself without reference to authority both divine and moral for truthful guidance? How intentionally and responsively am I scrutinizing what stands in the name of feelings for the sake of goodness?
As we query our right and true ways of moral-spirituality in everyday life, we need the new perspective of a conscience that is oriented to the divine and full of the values of transcendence, deeper conversion and fulfillment. Fidelity to our conscience, the embrace of wisdom and the living of sincere love will lead us to a new awareness of the richness of the status and the role of conscience. The search for, and finding of, the true meaning of conscientious life is to walk with in the never-fading inspiration of truth and love, sharing the joys of values as the way of realizing ones moral-spiritual responsibilities. The search of conscience in the immense mystery of love is to be responsible, turning to the Lord of Mercy as the foundation for higher values.
The yearning of the enquiring conscience in conversion is to come back to the sense of our being and the sense of true conscience (Lk 15,17a). One has to remember that God’s goodness is such that God his created a wonderful being and the goodness of his conscience is the abundance of goodness that the Father has shared with us. When we squander this shared goodness and turn our consciences into a fountain of evil, we starve the conscience of its values and qualities, abilities and capacities (Lk 15,17b). It is the work of conscience to think of the future as it situates itself in the present struggles or failures and to make a decision for growth and newness by speaking to itself of its state of being (Lk 15, 18-19). Without delay, and not under the influence of the opinions and thoughts of others, it’s time for a courageous and conscious move to a new life experience in the loving and merciful presence of God the Father who embraces all our consciences as we seek new life.
The moral and spiritual journey of an enquiring conscience is to know, love and serve the good-will, it is to know the value and meaning of the immanence and transcendence of life. It is the rediscovering of the khárisma and vocation of the enquiring conscience, moulding it in the love and mercy of God, the Creator and Redeemer. It is taking up again our daily human, moral and spiritual duties attentive to the status and role of our conscience leading to a new outlook and objectivity in view of true and right intention. In the moral and spiritual rebirth we then follow an enquiring conscience that is true, loving, merciful, objective and relational. It is a moral-religious conscience that sticks to true meaning and values, living in generosity the fullness of its adage in caritas.
Thus, a new conscientious and conscious experience in the Year of Mercy that is insightful, growing towards moral and religious conversion has to have the desire and will to raise challenging questions confronting our attitudes, thoughts and behavior. The darker side of our understanding and judgment, of appreciation and living are to be gauged if we are to embrace gracious moments again. Our oblivion to sin, our flight from truth and our clinging to moral and religious ignorance need a new dimension. Our journey now and always is the unfolding of a fundamentally correct, healthy, gracious and holy conscience that is willing to go an extra mile in relational and communal life.
“I sought to hear the voice of God and climbed the topmost steeple, But God declared: “Go down again – I dwell among the people.” (John Henry Newman.)
Fr. MSURI Emmanuel SAC