3 Questions To Examine Your Heart During Lent

by Gospels, Lent, Self-Knowledge

Fr. Ian VanHeusen presents a gospel reflection and spiritual exercise on the Gospel of John 3:14-21, when Jesus proclaims Himself the Light of the World. Throughout the Lenten season, Father encourages us to invest in prayer of self-examination, and he provides practical assistance in the method of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises as a pathway toward greater spiritual freedom.

We invite you to watch Father’s video, then prayerfully read the Gospel and reflection, and work your way through the Exercises. We pray that this might help you in your apostolate, your family, your classroom, or personally… to prepare for and more deeply experience Sunday’s Mass, and to better integrate the Sacrament and the readings into your daily life.

3 Questions for Examining Your Heart as You Progress Through the Penitential Season of Lent

1. Has your fasting and penance brought you joy?

Are the rigors of your Lenten prayer and practices becoming a source of a deeper excitement for and engagement in life? This should be the case!

2. Has examining you heart led to greater stillness and availability?

Are you becoming less selfish and more attentive to the people around you – loved ones, family members, friends, strangers?

3. Have you grown in mercy?

Patience in others’ sins and faults should be growing in your heart as a result of your own intentional prayer life and penances.

Spiritual Exercise

This week, we focus on the Three Powers of the Soul, developing the daily habit of daily examination of our heart and surrendering our full selves to God by way of the Suscipe Prayer.

*Direct quotes of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises taken from the Louis J. Puhl, SJ Translation.*

The Suscipe Prayer is essentially a complete surrender to God of what St. Ignatius of Loyola called the Three Powers of the Soul, namely the intellect, the memory, and the will. An unimpeded invitation to God into our efforts toward the good, and toward the habits of self-examination we’ve been cultivating with the Spiritual Exercises.

Having developed the daily habit of the Particular and General Examinations of Conscience based on the Ten Commandments and the Seven Deadly Sins, we now undertake a surrender of our whole selves to God, especially including the weaknesses we’ve identified in these examinations of conscience.

The purpose of our fasting, prayer and almsgiving, not to mention undertaking the rigors of the Spiritual Exercises of self-examination, is to prepare ourselves to be a better gift – both in our prayer before God, our life of faith, and in the way we give of ourselves to the people and duties of our daily life.

You may wish to refer back to weeks 1, 2 and 3, as the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises are meant to be a progression:

St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Suscipe Prayer:

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding and my entire will, All I have and call my own.

You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it.

Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.

On the Three Powers of the Soul


With regard to the three powers of the soul (MEMORY, INTELLECT, and WILL), observe the same method, measure of time, and additional direction as for the Commandments [but replace the progression through the Commandments with a progression through the three powers of the soul (i.e. Memory, Intellect, and Will)]. As there, use a preparatory prayer and colloquy:

…Before entering on the prayer I recollect myself for a while, and either seated or walking up and down, as may seem better, I will consider where I am going, and for what purpose. The same direction should be observed at the beginning of all the methods of prayer.


A preparatory prayer should be made, for example, I ask God our Lord for grace to know how I have failed in [surrendering my intellect], and also for grace and help to amend for the future. I will beg for a perfect understanding of them in order to observe them better and glorify and praise the Divine Majesty more.


In this first method of prayer I should consider and think over the First Power of the Soul (intellect), asking myself, how I have observed it, and in what I have failed. I will use as a measure of this consideration the space of time it takes to recite three times the Our Father and the Hail Mary. If during this time I find faults I have committed, I will ask forgiveness and say an Our Father. This same method will be followed with each of the [subsequent powers of the soul].


If one comes to the consideration of a Commandment [or power of the soul] against which he is not in the habit of committing any sins, it is not necessary to delay so long on it. According as he finds that he sins more or less against a Commandment, he should devote more or less time to the examination and consideration of it. The same rule should be observed with regard to the Capital Sins.

After one has finished the consideration of all the [three powers of the soul] as indicated above, and has accused himself of his faults, and asked for grace and help to amend for the future, he should close with a colloquy to God our Lord, adapted to the subject matter.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (3:14-21)

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the verdict, that the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

The Gospel of the Lord

Follow Fr. VanHeusen at http://ianvanheusen.com

Photo credit:  Louis Blythe / Unsplash

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