The Power of Persevering in a State of Grace | Lenten Spiritual Exercises Part 3 (Gospel Reflection)

by Gospels, Self-Knowledge

Fr. Ian VanHeusen presents a gospel reflection and spiritual exercise on the Gospel reading for the 3rd Sunday of Lent, John 2:13-25, when Jesus cleanses the Temple of money changers, foretells of its destruction and – to the bewilderment of those who hear Him – that He himself will rebuild it in three days. 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

4 things that happen when we persevere in a state of grace

1. We become detached from worldly concerns.

As we undergo the disciplines of Lent (asceticism, fasting, prayer), we begin to be purified and have an easier time rejecting worldly concerns, symbolized by the money changers in the temple who have been driven out. We are preparing our hearts and minds for true worship, just as Our Lord is preparing the Temple for true worship.

2. We become zealous and pious.

“Zeal for your house consumed me.” That same zealousness of Jesus begins to well up within us. Carefulness and mindfulness in our times of prayer – are we cultivating it? This flows naturally from point #1.

3. We rise to new life.

“In three days I will raise it up.” As the Temple is cleansed, as He destroys it, He brings it to new life. Persevering in a state of grace, we allow our old selves to be destroyed so as to permit Him to build us back up in new life.

4. We worship the Lord in spirit and truth.

As the Temple is purified, He is preparing for the new worship of the Eucharist. The New Covenant gives us access to the Father, to worship in spirit and truth. Participation in the Mass does this to us, when we are in a state of grace. Faith wells up in us, through our cooperation with the Holy Spirit.

Spiritual Exercise

This week, we focus on the General Examination of Conscience, developing the daily habit of daily examination of our heart.

(You may wish to refer back to week one’s Spiritual Exercise in praying on the Ten Commandments and the Seven Capital (or Deadly) Sins, or to last week’s Particular Examination of Conscience, to refresh your memory.)

*All italicized text below taken from the Louis J. Puhl, SJ Translation of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises.*

General Examination of Conscience

The purpose of this examination of conscience is to purify the soul and to aid us to improve our confessions

I presuppose that there are three kinds of thoughts in my mind, namely: one which is strictly my own, and arises wholly from my own free will; two others which come from without, the one from the good spirit, and the other from the evil one.

I. Thoughts

There are two ways of meriting from evil thoughts that come from without:

1. When a thought of committing a mortal sin comes to my mind which I resist at once, and thus overcome it.

2. When the same evil thought comes to me, and I resist it, but it returns again and again, and I always resist it till it is conquered.

This second way is more meritorious than the first.

It is a venial sin if the same thought of sinning mortally comes to mind and for a short time one pays heed to it, or receives some sense pleasure, or is somewhat negligent in rejecting it.

There are two ways of sinning mortally:

1. The first is to consent to the evil thought with the intention of carrying it out, or of doing so if one can.

2. The second way of sinning mortally is actually carrying out the sin to which consent was given.

This is a greater sin for three reasons:

1. Because of the greater duration;

2. Because of the greater intensity;

3. Because of the greater harm done to both persons.

II. Words

(One may also offend God in word in many ways: by blasphemy, by swearing.) One must not swear, neither by the creature nor by the Creator, unless it is according to truth, out of necessity, and with reverence.

By necessity I mean that the truth I swear to is not just some true statement I choose to confirm by oath, but one of real importance, either for the welfare of the soul or of the body, or with regard to temporal interests.

By reverence I mean that when the name of the Creator and Lord is mentioned, one acts with consideration and devoutly manifests due honor and respect.

It must be noted that in idle oaths we sin more grievously when we swear by the Creator than when we swear by a creature. However, to swear as one ought, according to truth, out of necessity, with reverence, is more difficult when we swear by a creature than when we swear by the Creator. There are three reasons for this:

When we wish to take an oath by some creature, the intention to call upon its name does not make us so attentive and cautious to speak the truth, or to confirm it by oath only if necessary, as we would be with the intention to use the name of the Creator and Lord of all.

When we swear by the name of some creature, it is not so easy to observe reverence and respect for the Creator as when in swearing we use the name of the Creator and Lord Himself. For the intention of using the name of God our Lord carries along with it a greater respect and reverence than the intention to use the name of a creature.Hence, those who are perfect should be allowed to swear by a creature rather than those who are imperfect. The perfect, due to constant contemplation and the enlightenment of the understanding, consider, meditate, and ponder more that God our Lord is in every creature by His essence, power, and presence. Therefore, when they swear by a creature, they are more apt to be disposed to show respect and reverence to the Creator and Lord than those who are imperfect.

In frequent swearing by a creature, idolatry is more to be feared in those who are imperfect than in those who are perfect.

(Among other sins of the tongue that we must avoid are idle words.) No idle word should be uttered. I understand a word to be idle when it serves no good purpose, either for myself or for another, and was not intended to do so. Hence, words are never idle when spoken for any useful purpose, or when meant to serve the good of one’s own soul or that of another, of the body or of temporal possessions. Nor are they idle because one speaks of matters that do not pertain to his state, for example, if a religious speaks of wars or of commerce. In all we have mentioned, there will be merit if what is said is directed to some good purpose; there will be sin if it is directed to an evil purpose, or if engaged in for no good end.

(Lying, false testimony, detraction are also sins of the tongue.) Nothing should be said to lessen the good name of another, or to complain about him. For if I reveal a hidden mortal sin of another, I sin mortally; if I reveal a hidden venial sin, I sin venially; if his defect, I manifest my own.

If, however, my intention is good, there are two ways in which it is permissible to speak of the sin or fault of another:

1. When a sin is public, as in the case of a woman openly leading a shameless life, or of a sentence passed in court, or of a commonly known error that infests the minds of those with whom we live

2. When a hidden sin is revealed to some one with the intention that he help the one who is in sin to rise from his state. But then there must be some grounds or probable reasons for believing that he will be able to help him

(Among sins of the tongue may be considered ridicule, insults, and other similar sins, which the one giving the Exercises may discuss if he judges it necessary.)

III. Deeds

The subject matter for examination will be the Ten Commandments, the laws of the Church, the recommendations of superiors. All transgressions of obligations arising from any of these three groups are more or less grievous sins according to the gravity of the matter.

By recommendations of superiors is meant crusade indults and other indulgences, such as those for peace on condition of confession and reception of Holy Communion. For to be the cause of one acting against such pious recommendations and regulations of superiors, or to do so oneself, is no small sin.

Method of Making the General Examination of Conscience

There are five points in this method:

1. The first point is to give thanks to God our Lord for the favors received.

2. The second point is to ask for grace to know my sins and to rid myself of them.

3. The third point is to demand an account of my soul from the time of rising up to the present examination. I should go over one hour after another, one period after another. The thoughts should be examined first, then the words, and finally, the deeds in the same order as was explained under the Particular Examination of Conscience.

4. The fourth point will be to ask pardon of God our Lord for my faults.

5. The fifth point will be to resolve to amend with the grace of God. Close with an Our Father.

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (2:13-25)

Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables, and to those who sold doves he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture, Zeal for your house will consume me. At this the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.

While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all, and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.

The Gospel of the Lord

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Photo credit: Robb Leahy / Unsplash

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