The Moralistic Approach
The most important issue is my love for God and for my neighbour.
In trying to be good, I am pleasing to him.
God is easily seen as a threat: He demands sacrifices from me all the time. He is like a competitor: what he gains is my loss.
Sin is an attempt to fill up a gap in my life in an illicit way: a transgression of laws and regulations; a deliberate failure in my duties; a lack of love for God, and possibly a decrease of God’s love for me.
Examination of conscience is mostly a search for my shortcomings and a scrutiny of my motivation, with an act of contrition for my failures and a resolution to try harder.
Confession is centred on my sins which I have to articulate honestly and on my contrition for these sins; there is gratefulness for God’s forgiveness, and relief.
The cross is imposed by God, both on Jesus and on me. I must patiently accept it from his hands.
Prayer is meditating on the Word of God and asking for his grace and help; it implies a fair amount of introspection with the danger of focussing too much on myself.
Abandonment is psychologically (not theologically) experienced as my own effort, in which, of course, I am aware of failure.
Humility is trying to make myself smaller, it is intent on considering my own weakness and poverty.
Perfection means that nothing is lacking – no faults, no mistakes, no defects.
Charity is the greatest commandment, equal to the love of God, and the norm to be applied at the last judgment. It is my most important effort. Thank God it is deepening, but I still find much selfishness in myself and regret that I still cannot accept some people as they are.
Eucharist is a meal which presupposes a bond between those participating and also strengthens that bond. In sharing that meal I commit myself to genuine involvement with others.
It is my love for God that makes me holy. The emphasis is on me – serving God.
The Faith Approach
The ultimate value is God’s love for me as I am, and for my neighbour.
Because God is good, he makes me pleasing to him and that makes me try to be good. I am loved into goodness.
God is the deepest Ground of my being. Only what I give him is truly mine. The threat is not God, but I in so far as I do not let God be God.
Sin is not to let myself be loved by God; to screen myself off from his love, mostly by over-involvement in other things or persons; an attempt to procure my own happiness instead of receiving it from God.
Examination of conscience is primarily giving thanks to God for specific signs of his faithfulness and concern, and against that background, regret for my lack of response.
Confessions is focussed on the pure joy which the Father experiences in my coming home after I strayed and in forgiving me; it is sharing in his joy and thus growing in intimacy with him.
The cross is not willed by God but is caused precisely by my resistance to God.
Prayer means to let myself be loved by God, like sunbathing in his love, to contemplate God’s glory in Jesus and in doing so to be transformed deeply (see 2 Cor 3:18).
Abandonment is worked by God who effects it in me; I have to let myself be drawn by him.
Humility is being fascinated by God’s beauty, goodness, and greatness, and a longing to be with Jesus in his hardships and in his glory.
Perfection is to live with God – He in me and I in him.
Charity is the love of God which fills my heart to the brim, to the overflowing, and from there flows out to my neighbour. It is his love which streams through me to others. It can be verified as his love by the fact that it includes the least of my brothers and sisters.
Eucharist: all the many aspects meet in this core: “Do this in memory of Me.” It is He. With his Body and his Blood he also gives me his Spirit.
In general: It is God’s love for me that makes me holy. The emphasis is on God whom I serve.
(Source: Kretzschmar, L. 2005. Ethics & Spirituality. Pretoria: Unisa.)