"Inspectio Cordis": Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Mass is like a compass for our daily lives. The Word of God provides direction to our path, and the Eucharist provides us with sustenance and fuel to traverse that path.

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 While his original text is worth reading, his examples and style can feel outdated to the modern reader.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 Ordinary Time – Cycle B
January 28, 2024

Before Holy Communion

1. “On the sabbath Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.”
I have sometimes imagined that I am at a disadvantage compared to the Apostles. They, as eyewitnesses, saw Jesus; they heard His teaching; they witnessed His miracles. We imagine how it must have been for them, pondering these past events through prayer. But, as Catholics, we believe that Jesus is truly present at each Mass: through the priest, in the Word, in the Eucharist, and in the entire assembly. Each Sunday, which is our “sabbath,” we take time to be with Jesus. He enters our church, which is our “synagogue,” to teach and perform His miracles.

How different our attitude toward Sunday Mass might be if we approached it in this way!

How do you typically experience Sunday Mass at your parish? What hinders you from being an “eyewitness” of Jesus and His presence? What aids you?

2. “He shall tell them all that I command him.”
For the Jews, Moses was not only the giver of the law, but also the prophet par excellence. To be a prophet means primarily, not foretelling the future, but speaking forth the words of the Lord to others. We are accustomed to thinking of prophets as by-gone persons, relegated to the past. However, each Christian shares in the prophetic mission of Christ, and each ordained priest shares this mission in a particular way.

A homily is meant, not only to instruct or catechize, but to speak the same Word – read from the Scriptures – in human words, adequate to our mode of thinking and living today. In the best of cases, Jesus’ “commands” His priests to speak, to tell us “all” He has said. Like the Hebrews, we can shy away from direct encounters with the living God, leaving that to the saints. But whether we hear God directly, or whether we hear Him through His prophets and priests, we are to listen and obey.

How much attention do you give to the homily, as an extension of the Word of God? How do you apply the directives of the Lord’s instructions in your week to come?

3. “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
As a teenager, I asked my father: “Why did the Israelites keep falling into sin?” I was traversing the book of Judges, and I noticed how cyclical the story became, as the Israelites fell into sin, were rescued, enjoyed freedom, until they sinned again. To my question, my father inquired: “And how often do you repeat the same sins?”

We probably know our “mainstay” sins which we repeat each time we go to Confession. But perhaps the root of such repeated sin is a hardness of heart. We may hear the voice of the Lord, but we harden our hearts because we are afraid of obeying. We fear what we must sacrifice or do. But if we truly heard His voice, we would sing joyfully and acclaim Him with thanksgiving, for His voice is always one of love.

How do you recognize the voice of the Lord in your life and your heart? How do you recognize when your heart is hardening, and what do you do in the face of that?

After Holy Communion

1. “I should like you to be free of anxieties.”
Our lives are often strangled by anxieties, like the seed choked by thorns. St. Paul’s desire seems whimsical in the face of reality. Yet, he expresses a desire of Jesus’ own heart: that we be freed from the interior burdens of our lives. We are so often divided between many persons, things, activities, and more. But we have only one heart, and we may disperse our heart’s energies and focus in many directions, leaving us empty.

You have received Jesus in Holy Communion. He may not “fix” all the concrete problems that you face, but He can touch your heart to help you relate to your anxieties with calm and peace. For now, you do not have to face the world alone, but rather, with Him. He is with you, in a way no other person can be.

What are the anxieties that burden your heart as you receive Jesus? How can you allow Jesus to free you from them and help you face them with a heart united to His?

2. " I am telling you this… for the sake of adherence to the Lord without distraction.”
Saint Paul’s words about celibacy as enabling a single-hearted focus upon the Lord may seem inapplicable to most Christians, who are married. Yet, the essence of the celibate state is not the lack of a spouse, but rather, the “adherence to the Lord without distraction.” That is a goal for all Christians, and it would mean, concretely, remembering the gift of Holy Communion throughout the week.

Mass is like a compass for our daily lives. The Word of God provides direction to our path, and the Eucharist provides us with sustenance and fuel to traverse that path. While there are many things which could occupy our mind as we walk, St. Paul reminds us to adhere to Jesus, to follow Him, to keep to His path, without distraction, until we arrive at the destination.

What are the distractions that side-track you as you follow Jesus? How can your heart adhere with more focus and love to Jesus whom you have received?

3. “He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.”
Various movies about exorcisms and exorcists have been released, making possession an object of sensational curiosity. But the reality behind exorcism is grim: sin reduces us to slavery, at times even to evil spirits. Each of us, inasmuch as we sin, wander into areas of life where unclean – evil – spirits attempt to distract us or fill us with anxieties. We are incapable of battling such spirits alone, for they obey only Jesus. To be released from them, we need to obey Jesus, who teaches with authority.

If even evil spirits obey Him, then how much ought we, His disciples, to obey Him promptly, and so be set free!

What sins – with their accompanying unclean spirits – habitually weigh you, your family, or friends down? Where do you need to grow in obedience to Jesus and His teaching “with authority”? 

Next: Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
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