September 30, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Jerome, priest and doctor of the Church

Today's Readings

“We have been disobedient to the Lord, our God, and only too ready to disregard his voice.” We can always hear the voice of the Lord speaking to us in the form of our conscience. Our conscience amazes us because we find there a law which we did not invent and no one taught us. This is a law written on our hearts by God. We can learn specific ways of understanding this law, some are right and some are wrong, but the foundational law that tells us to do good and not evil was always there.

Our conscience is where we are most truly who we are; there, in the depths of our soul, we are alone with God. Knowing our own conscience requires that we spend time with ourselves, getting to know ourselves, speaking to God whom we find when we look within. Not because we are God, but because he is nearer to us than we are to ourselves.

Everyone can hear God’s voice in their conscience, but some people have taught themselves to ignore it. By disregarding their conscience time after time, they eventually tune it out. By obey our conscience, especially when this is difficult, we will eventually begin obeying easily. When we hear the voice within us we must immediately obey without delaying or saying, “next time I will do what is right, but this time I just want to do what I want.”

After we have done wrong, our conscience performs the crucial role of reminding us of that wrong; teaching us to ask for forgiveness; refusing to let us simply forget what we have done. In someone who has given their life completely over to evil, this voice is nearly silent, but for most of us, this is the most obvious part of conscience. We may not think ahead of time about our actions, but when we do something really wrong, we cannot forget.

Once we know our conscience, we must obey it no matter what, but this does not mean that we ought to just do whatever seems right to us. Our conscience must be formed by the teaching of Church, by Scripture, by prayer, and by speaking with others. Some moral problems are very difficult, requiring a great deal of understanding and knowledge. In those cases, a well-formed conscience tells us that when the problem is too obscure for us, we should be humble enough to obey those who can see.