If you are reading this Daily Reflections blog, chances are you are not doing so merely because at this moment you have nothing better to do. You are reading this because you want to have God in your life, you wish to deepen your interior life, to become a better person, become someone who is more prayerful and loving. In that case, it may be of help to you to reflect for a few days with me on the notion of conscience.
Why do this? Why bother to look closely at the conscience? Certainly everyone knows what it is, you might say. It’s that little voice inside that makes you feel guilty when you’ve done something wrong. True enough. But there is much more to our conscience than that. Our conscience is not just an irritating little guilt generator. It is an extremely important piece of moral equipment that enables us to love what is good and reject what is evil. It is really a very noble part of ourselves. Here is what The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
Deep within his conscience man discovers a law which he has not laid upon himself but which he must obey. Its voice, ever calling him to love and to do what is good and to avoid evil, sounds in his heart at the right moment… For man has in his heart a law inscribed by God… His conscience is man’s most secret core and his sanctuary. There he is alone with God whose voice echoes in his depths [no. 1776].
This beautiful passage brings out the nobility of our conscience. It is the “place” within us where we find that we have a spontaneous affinity with what is good, with what is of God. We are, after all, made in God’s image. In a manner similar to the way genetics cause traces of the parents’ appearance to be seen in the face of their child, we can also find traces of our Heavenly Father’s heart in our own hearts, through the “genetics” of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Conscience is about that reality. Conscience contains a “law” that we have not laid upon ourself; it is the law of love. This law does not force us. We remain free. But it calls to us, invites us to grow more like our Heavenly Father. Our conscience points to the love God has for us, and helps us respond in kind. Our conscience sanctions our good works and provides the happiness we experience when we do what is good and avoid what is evil.