Why do so many people find it so difficult to stop judging and condemning others? Our Lord tells us that we must stop judging so that we may not be judged. We are told that by our words we will be judged. We are also told that if we want to be reconciled with God, we need to examine why our acts of self-righteousness and disobedience set us on the wrong course. In other words, our examination of conscience at the end of each day needs to be an opportunity to cleanse our hearts as well as to atone for our actions.
The traditional Act of Contrition begins: O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee. It can be very easy to recite this prayer hastily, and yet there are times when we need to focus our attention on the word ‘heartily’. God wants to know where our hearts are. He wants to search our inner lives so that we can see the hidden thoughts, attitudes, fears, and desires that lie behind the things we do, and fail to do. In the long run, God is far more interested in our inner lives than in the actions that arise from them. For he knows that if he can change us on the inside, then he will have caused a dramatic change in the things we say and do.
Our Lord promises special blessings for those who extend mercy and forgiveness. He tells us that the degree to which we have forgiveness in our hearts is the degree to which we will experience his overflowing mercy. Isn’t that a great deal? We won’t just be pardoned for individual sins, we will be changed and transformed. We will become a new creation, both on the inside and on the outside.