Have you ever seen your life flash before your eyes? I have.
It happened when I picked up a piece of paper called “An Examination of Conscience Guide.” I read it, swooned, and then my legally wild imagination transported me into a courtroom of clouds with the gates of heaven at my right and the pits of hell to my left….
God sits on the bench. He isn’t scary at all, just very kind, loving and …compassionate. But He’s still Mighty, All Powerful and commands authority beyond this world.
I slide in nervously to the table labeled Defendant. On the opposite side of me, sitting where the Prosecutor should be, is another me-- only better dressed in a starched suit, with dark rimmed glasses and a list as long as Santa’s.
“E-excuse me Lord, what am I doing there and where’s my lawyer?”
“That’s your conscience and you’re multi-tasking today.” In a flash, He’s beside me to steady my twitching legs. “Don’t be frightened. I understand more than you think I do. And I love you more than anyone you know.”
And I felt it, too—from God’s hands, all the way to the quaking toes on my flipflops. I straighten my back and watch Him return to His seat.
“Ready? Let’s begin.”
Conscience snaps her fingers to call in the first witness to the stand: a classmate from first grade I wasn’t too fond of. He testifies that one afternoon, I yanked a chair from under him when he was about to sit down. Then I snickered when he landed on his tushy. The hurt look in his eyes remind me of a page from my Precious Moments bible.
God’s eyes mirror my classmate’s. “I didn’t think that was very funny,” He comments although He’s biting a smile.
I clear my throat. The fighter in me attempts to reason out. “With all due respect Lord, where exactly does it say Thou shall not pull pranks on your classmates in the Ten Commandments?
“Right under Thou shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
“But that’s not one of the ten. I didn’t violate the Ten.”
“You violated the fifth: Thou shall not kill,” Conscience speaks up.
“What? Did I kill his booty nerves? His tailbone?”
She glares at me. “Anger and vengeance are the root of murder.”
“My, my if looks could kill, you’d be sitting here instead of over there.”
God sighs. “I’ve decided I won’t be too harsh on you. You hadn’t received First Communion yet and you were not fully at the age of reason.”
“Whew. And you’re right, it wasn’t funny. It was mean.”
Conscience buts in, “It wasn’t funny either when you pushed your sister off the bed. And that falls under Thou shall not dishonor your father and Mother because keeping peace in the family means to honor your parents.”
I stick my tongue out at her. “Lord, was that pre-age of reason, too?” Please say yes.
“In that case, I am sorry, Lord. You know I’d give my sister my last kidney if she needed it, right?”
God nods. “And that’s the only thing that’s keeping Me from bringing her to the witness stand.”
Second Witness steps up. It’s the Insulter, a classmate from Fifth grade whom I bullied and renamed the Insulter. She doesn’t even get to speak because I raise my hand like the good fifth grade student that I was.
“Ooh, ooh! I know it. I know it. Name calling is a sin against the Fifth commandment.”
God’s eyes water. “Do you know how many feelings you’ve hurt by careless words said to someone’s face? Do you know how many reputations you’ve ruined by slandering people behind their backs?”
“I plead the fifth Amendment on that,” I say, chin jutting out.
Conscience lectures, “Man’s laws are not applicable in God’s courts. You can’t dictate God to accept wrong for right and vice versa. He’s God. You’re not. Got it? You’re not God.”
“You’re not God, either. In fact, you’re a pest…” My voice trails off as I notice Witnesses Number 3 through Number 764, victims of my tongue, lined up to take the stand.
“All those times, you did it to Me,” God speaks.
I’m ready to cry. What was I thinking thinking that I was better than everyone else and that I had a right to judge? “Um, Lord, does it count that the Insulter forgave me and remains one of my best friends to this day? Doesn’t that say something of the goodness in me?”
“No, it says something of the goodness in her.”
Conscience adds, “But your comment says something of the pride still in you.”
Self- love in the face of True Love can make one awfully sheepish. “Sorry, Lord. Doubly sorry. Make that 764 times sorry.”
A screen bigger than a baseball stadium projector appears out of nowhere. “Time for Exhibits,” God informs me.
Exhibit A is a scene from the mall during my starving college days when I snuck into three movie theatres after paying admission for only one. The final scene captured on heavenly camera was taken from my sem break when I stuffed my face with potato chips and chocolate while watching a marathon of pirated DVD movies.
Okay, so maybe I wasn’t starving, just movie addicted and a junk food abuser. “Lord, I admit it: I kind of stole from big bucks Hollywood producers and actors. But the DVD’s were loaned to me. I didn’t buy them.”
“Blaming others, check. Stealing check and putting false idols in front of God, check check” Conscience huffs.
“Really? That was against the First Commandment, the most important of them all?”
A glance at God confirms she’s right. True Love has always put my soul’s best interests first, why couldn’t I put Him before anything else? He wants so much to be loved in return.
“But-- but everyone does it, Lord. Do we all get the same sentence?”
Conscience snorts. “Never mind everyone. You’ve got enough years in purgatory to worry about.”
“Purgatory? What’s that?”
“It’s a place of purification. You don’t deserve to go to hell –yet but you can’t enter heaven until your soul is purified and your sins are atoned for. Weren’t you listening in Catechism class?,” Conscience grumbles.
“I was sick with chicken pox during that particular lecture. Besides, what are you so smug about? You’re coming with me to Purgatory.”
She ignores me. “Moving on.”
Exhibit B is a film clip from accounting class when I didn’t know the answer to a pop-quiz. There I am in the classroom, batting my eyelashes at my brainy seatmate and asking him to show me his answer. He pushes his paper closer to me. I squint and bat my eyelashes again to make sure I read correctly because his answer is totally different than mine and that must mean I’m getting an F. He leans over to scribble the correct answer on my sheet. And with my chin still dangling on my chest, I watch him pass my paper up front.
“Lord, you saw that, didn’t you? He cheated for me.”
“You let him do it. That makes you an accomplice,” Conscience says.
I brighten up. “Does that mean my penalty gets mitigated?”
“Aggravated. You fluttered your eyelashes.”
“Lord, my eyelashes are as short and stiff as Bermuda grass on a golf green so I doubt I charmed him or anyone for that matter. By the way, speaking of, why didn’t you create me with Penelope Cruz’s eyelashes?” As I say it, I already know, I’ve committed a sin against the Ninth-- jealousy of my gorgeous Spanish neighbor. Conscience notices it, too because of course, nothing escapes those stubby-lashed eyes. She scribbles on her list.
|See the resemblance?|
“Which brings me to my next exhibit,” says Conscience.
I shudder. Was the traitor going to bring up Angelina Jolie or Jennifer Aniston?
“Lord, “ I plead. “I know that You know that I think Brad Pitt is good-looking but I didn’t covet him. I love my husband. I was just admiring one of your finest looking human creations whenever I saw those tabloid covers on the supermarket. Honest.”
Conscience’s head bobs up and down. “Yeah, you did good on that man’s appearance, Lord. However, I’m not talking about that. It’s these I’m referring to--”
Exhibit C-1 through C-2,694 parades in front of me --Blue, pink, white halter tops, strapless dresses including my wedding dress when I was supposed to be a chaste bride, shorts, mini-skirts--
“Hey wait a minute! I didn’t wear any short skirts.”
“Cause you didn’t like your knees. So the reason was all for vanity, ” she clarifies.
“Oh Lord,” I mumble. “You sure know how to get a girl down to her humble, ugly knees.”
“There’s more,” Conscience says. “The issue of immodesty…”
“No, no please don’t show me how many men I’ve caused to violate the Sixth Commandment I’m ashamed. I’ve changed. Lord, you know I’m trying to teach my kids modesty now. See, my closet is not the same and I even wear slips in 90 degree weather.”
“Your closet is still too big--,” mocks Conscience.
“A girl’s gotta have options!”
God holds up His hand. “Now, now if Mary Magdalen can reform her life, I’m willing to give you a chance.”
I press my hands together. “Thank you, Lord. Thank you. I’ll go get all my perfume bottles so if you’ll just stick out your holy feet…”
God laughs. “I don’t mean that. I mean that I see your soul’s fullest potential despite what you’ve done. And if you accept the graces of heaven, I can change you from a sinner to a saint.”
I gasp. “A saint? Me?”
“Why does that surprise you? Every soul I’ve created is destined to be a saint.”
“Considering my list of crimes, that’s like asking for an island in the Carribean.” I mumble.
“With God and me, nothing is impossible,” St. Conscience adds.
“When can I expect that island then?” I joke.
St. Conscience sends me a look that is anything but saintly. “Don’t push it.”
Exhibit D is entitled False Witnessing. It begins with the earliest one: “I didn’t do it, Mom. Jinjin did it!” The film clip ends with the time I informed my inquisitive oldest child that I heard from my reliable cousin that babies are born through the momma’s belly button.
“That’s a sin?!”
“You can’t lie to your kids or anyone for that matter. You are supposed to be a role model of morality,” Conscience says.
I slump in my seat. “No more please, I can’t stand myself. I’m really sorry, Lord.”
Conscience taps her list with her pen.
I make a face at her. “I’m surprised you didn’t show me the time you advised me to lie through my teeth by telling my pregnant friend she didn’t look fat.”
“You’ve already confessed that one,” she reminds me in a sing song voice. “The wonderful thing about the sacrament of confession is that it erases the sin from God’s memory. So it’s no longer in here.”
Exhibit E involves Sloth scenes. The camera closes up to me at the office, adding and deleting items on my online baby registry when I should have been finishing up a brief. Fast forward to a scene from home: I’m sniffing a dirty diaper on my crawling baby but ignore it. I keep reading my book, waiting for my husband to discover the surprise instead.
Conscience shakes her head. “Tsk, tsk.”
“Lord, be fair: I was grossly underpaid and my husband changes diapers once a week, it was his turn.”
Conscience says, “Don’t you know how important your duty is and that it’s always your turn to do something for your spouse and children? Every chance you do your duty, you get a crown in heaven.”
“Then may I remind you of all the times I woke up with the baby so my husband could sleep?”
“Your crowns will come another day when you come to heaven.” God’s voice is soft, understanding. “Then you will see the good that you’ve done. But this examination of conscience is for you to reform your life so that you come closer to Me, not to acquit or convict you.”
“Oh, I get it. It’s a pseudo- judgment.”
Conscience rolls her eyes. “Duh! What did you think this was? You’re not dead yet.”
“You know Miss Scrupulous, I’m getting real tired of you—“
“She’s not the enemy,” God says. “She’s helping you realize your sins so that you can go to Confession.”
“Why exactly do I need Confession? I’ve been apologizing to You every five seconds here.”
“It’s a Sacrament of the Church, a mystery. You apologize to Jesus, who died for you, and through the priest, Jesus gives you pardon and peace. Then I give you the Holy Spirit’s graces to repent and change to become more and more perfect like the inhabitants of heaven are perfect. So when your final judgment comes, I can immediately order St. Peter to open wide the heavenly doors for you and you’d fit right in among the sassy sinners turned meek saints.”
“Okay, okay I’m going, Lord. Tell me something though: will confession silence her?” I hitch my thumb and motion frantically to the traitor.
“The only way your conscience stays quiet is when you are both in one accord, moving with My will.”
“Actually,” Conscience buts in again. “I can be quiet --briefly-- if you give me another case to work on.” She wiggles, yes wiggles, her brows.
I get her drift and for once, I like her idea. I wink. “Done. I’m unleashing you on my FB page. Now leave me alone and go bug my friends.
photos courtesy www.freedigitalphotos.net
photos courtesy www.freedigitalphotos.net