"Inspectio Cordis": Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 10

Conversion requires seeing the truth and admitting that we have done wrong. But the purpose of gazing upon Christ crucified is not merely to lament our sins but to believe in the love stronger than our sins. Jesus is “lifted up” on the Cross so that we “may have eternal life.”

By Fr. Thaddaeus Lancton, MIC

A gaze of the heart. Examining the depth of one’s heart.

There is no one way to translate the Latin title Inspectio Cordis, given to the collection of meditations for Sundays by the Founder of the Marians, St. Stanislaus Papczyński (1631-1701).

These meditations, published weekly on Fridays in preparation for the Sunday Mass, follow the style and purpose of our holy Father Founder. While his original text is worth reading, his examples and style can feel outdated to the modern reader. As his spiritual son, I will attempt my best to imitate his style and imitate his ministry of preaching to hearts.

The goal is to allow Jesus to gaze into your heart and teach you self-examination, leading you to a more fruitful reception of Holy Communion, where there is a true encounter of our hearts with His Sacred Heart – especially fitting during this period of National Eucharistic Revival.


Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetere Sunday – Cycle B
March 10, 2024

Before Holy Communion

1. “Added infidelity to infidelity…”
This conclusion to the book of 2 Chronicles seems rather dour, emphasizing the sinfulness of the Jews, despite the warnings of the prophets. The effects of their sins are placed before their eyes: their world was destroyed by their enemies. We, too, sometimes add “infidelity to infidelity,” despite the Word read each Sunday and the Church reminding us in Lent to repent.

Conversion is a heart-wrenching process by which we admit our sin and witness its effects in life. But this is a necessary step for receiving mercy: only confession of iniquity opens our hearts to receive the Father’s forgiveness. Similarly, the end of the reading opens the door to hope: despite their sin, the Father restores His People and their life. Despite their infidelity, God proves His fidelity, revealing that He is with us even in our exile. We pass through the penitential rite at each Mass to admit not only our sin but to confess, above all, His mercy.

What sins do you struggle to surrender despite knowing you need to stop? How have you experienced God’s fidelity amid your infidelity? How do you live the penitential rite at Mass?

2. “By the streams of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.”
The Jews were exiled to Babylon for seventy years. However, our entire life is an exile from Eden, the original paradise prepared for us but lost through sin. We tend to avoid sorrow and lament because we dislike sadness. We prefer to pretend that “Babylon” – our present life – is our home, to escape the sense of exile. But the truth is that we are not yet home, and that if we truly understood that our home is in Heaven, we would sit and weep. But far from reducing life to a “valley of tears” alone, such sadness opens our hearts to the joy of hoping for our eternal homeland.

We all tend, in the busyness of life, to be so immersed in the “here and now” that we do forget Jerusalem, namely, heaven. But when we do, life withers, and joy fades. An essential aspect of conversion in Lent is to remember that many of our sins come from the desire to find full happiness now, instead of patiently hoping for authentic joy in Heaven.

When do you find yourself so immersed in this life that you forget heaven? Do you have time to weep and mourn the sorrows of this life and so open your heart to the hope of heaven?

3. “Seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus.”
Saint Paul speaks to us of already being seated in Heaven. By Baptism, we have a real share in the death and resurrected life of Jesus Christ. We not only await Heaven, but we live there already through faith. This does not mean being otherworldly. In a real way, we have access to Heaven through Mass and prayer and especially Holy Communion. For where Jesus is, there is heaven already now. Life without Mass, without the Eucharist, is life without Jesus and the Heaven that He brings. But so often we live, not focused upon Jesus, but upon this world, consumed with its anxieties and burdens. It is undeniable that we must be engaged in this world. But we need to claim our privilege that, even while we live in exile, we have access to "home.' For this reason, the Sunday Eucharist truly is the center of our week and lives.

How do you experience the Eucharist as a foretaste of heaven? What makes it difficult to remain there with Christ throughout the week?

After Holy Communion

1. “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert…”
As the Hebrews saw the effect of their sins in the desert, so we see the effects of our sins upon Christ on the Cross. Conversion requires seeing the truth and admitting that we have done wrong. But the purpose of gazing upon Christ crucified is not merely to lament our sins but to believe in the love stronger than our sins. Jesus is “lifted up” on the Cross so that we “may have eternal life.”

The focus of Lent is not penance for its own sake, nor staring at our sins to be ashamed of ourselves. Rather, by looking upon the crucifix, we receive healing and pardon that opens heaven for us now, if only we believe in Jesus. Similarly, this heaven is literally opened, for Christ is “lifted up” before us in the Host at Holy Communion, and if we believe, we already have eternal life.  

What do you “see” when you gaze upon Christ crucified? Do you see Him “lifted up” in the Host for you to have eternal life?

2. “For God so loved the world…”
This line is so repeated in Christian cultures that it begins to lack its profound impact. What is our reaction when we hear news of war, disaster, hatred, crimes, and more, in the news? We often become disgusted, frustrated, embittered, critical, and worse. But the Father, seeing all of sin throughout history, is moved by love to offer His own Son for our sake.

The Father’s response to sin is so different from ours, who are often more judgmental than merciful. We will be contemplating for all eternity just how much the Father loves the world and loves us, doing everything He can to save us from our sin and eternal death. But He not only gave (past tense) His Son; today He gives you His Son in Holy Communion. He so loves you!

What does it mean to your heart and life that God so loves you to give you His Son in each Holy Communion? How can you penetrate more deeply into His immense love this week? 

3. “Whoever does not believe has already been condemned.”
Sometimes we have a fearful image of God as a judge who can just as easily condemn us to Hell as He could admit us to Heaven. Jesus presents a different image here. Those who are condemned are such by their own choice, namely, their refusal to believe in the love that is greater than their sin and that of the whole world. We readily see sin and its effects in the world, but it requires faith to believe in a love even more powerful than evil.

As Christians, we are called not only to believe but to witness to that love and manifest it in our lives and actions. For, as Paul states, we are created for the “good works” God “prepared in advance” for us to “live in.” This week, we are called to help others by words and deeds to believe in this loving Father, who wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. 

How can you reveal this love of the Father to others this week to help them believe? What kinds of good works has the Father prepared for you to “live in” and fulfill?

Next week: Fifth Sunday of Lent
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