(Gospel Reflection) The Meaning of Ash Wednesday: What Death Can Teach Us About Living

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In this series, Father Ian VanHeusen is going to give you a weekly spiritual exercise based on the Sunday Readings to help you grow in your relationship with the Lord.

What is a Spiritual Exercise you ask? St. Ignatius of Loyola writes, “By the term “Spiritual Exercises” is meant every method of examination of conscience, of meditation, of contemplation, of vocal and mental prayer, and of other spiritual activities.


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For just as taking a walk, journeying on foot, and running are bodily exercises, so we call Spiritual Exercises every way of preparing and disposing the soul to rid itself of all inordinate attachments, and, after their removal, of seeking and finding the will of God in the disposition of our life for the salvation of our soul.”

We invite you to first prayerfully read the Gospel reading, then watch the video, and finally go through the Spiritual exercise.


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Gospel Reading for Ash Wednesday (Mt 6:1-6,16-18)

Jesus said to his disciples: “Take care not to perform righteous deeds in order that people may see them; otherwise, you will have no recompense from your heavenly Father. When you give alms, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win the praise of others.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, so that your almsgiving may be secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.


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“When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners so that others may see them. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

“When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites. They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting. Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you may not appear to be fasting, except to your Father who is hidden. And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

Personal Reflection

  1. In the Mass, we hear the phrase, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Write a paragraph explaining what you think this means.
  2. Imagine that you have died after a long life. Imagine that you are in heaven with all the saints and angels. Write a description of what heaven will be like
  3. Write a conversation with Jesus about what it will be like to be with him in heaven.

If you would like to print out these questions, we have prepared a downloadable handout version of this Spiritual Exercise. Click the download button bellow.

About Fr. Ian Van Heusen

Fr. Ian Van Heusen has written 28 post in this blog.

Fr. Ian is a Catholic Priest of the Diocese of Raleigh, NC. He is assigned to St. Bernadette Catholic Church as a Parochial Vicar, and he writes on prayer and meditation at www.ianvanheusen.com.

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