Enabling conscience and horse trading
by Ken Rolheiser
In rural Ireland Murphy was selling chicken burgers. These became very popular based on an old family recipe. Before long Murphy began exporting to Europe. Little did anyone know he had been mixing horsemeat with the chicken. Eventually his conscience got the better of him.

"How much horse did you put into the chicken burgers?" asked the Priest at confession. "Oh I never went beyond the 50/50 mark, Father," he replied. "One chicken one horse."

“The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you choose, what you think, and what you do is who you become.” Heraclitus

Conscience is described in an old Indian word picture of a square peg inside the heart. When you do something wrong, the peg turns, and the sharp edges give you the sensation that you need to stop. But if you ignore the warning over time the edges wear off and it can freely turn without you feeling anything anymore.

“Resurrecting that little voice we have laid to rest is not impossible, but succeeding in life without it is,” says Jerry Shirley in his reflection “The death of a conscience”. Shirley illustrates the death of conscience in the story of Herod, the lap dance, and the beheading of John the Baptist.

In Jean Vanier’s Signs, a chapter on Authority speaks of conscience: “Conscience is like the voice of God that shows the way of love in the here and now... Christians are often fearful of affirming confidence in themselves and their personal conscience... We have to help each person to love and respect themselves and to have confidence in their own conscience and in the Holy Spirit who gave it to them.”

The choices we make to follow or not to follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings in our lives will ultimately determine whether we are happy or unhappy in this life and in eternity.
“Every one of us carries the light of Christ in our hearts, but it is up to us to decide how brightly we let it shine.” (The Word Among Us, July 2015)

Living in good conscience is not easy. Athenagoras, late Patriarch of Constantinople, says of this struggle, “The hardest war is the war against oneself... I waged this war for years and it was terrible. But I am disarmed. I no longer fear anything, because love chases fear away.”

God sees our efforts and our sacrifices. He uses our mistakes to guide us into a better course. At the heart of our relationship with God is a good conscience. “Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God.” (Gaudium et Spes)

Good conscience is reflected in right action. God makes much of our little. One corn seed produces an average of 800 kernels. We need to be attuned to God’s working in us and communicating with us. We need to spend time with God and to listen to him speak through his Word and his whispers in our hearts.

To be at peace with yourself is to be in harmony with God. And if you listen closely to God you will occasionally hear him say, “That was very well done.”

(538 words)