"Inspectio Cordis": Third Sunday of Easter, April 14

Our hearts are often troubled by fears of the worst because suffering and death are real. Yet, even more real is the risen Lord, who personally stands beside us through Holy Communion. He is greater than all our trials, and “nothing can resist” Him.

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 While his original text is worth reading, his examples and style can feel outdated to the modern reader.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.

Third Sunday of Easter – Cycle B
April 14, 2024

This Sunday’s Inspectio Cordis meditation uses the original meditations – in the quotation marks – from St. Stanislaus Papczyński. 

Before Holy Communion

1. “He stood in their midst…”    
“Such consolation, such blessing is prepared for you today, my soul. For the one risen from the dead, Jesus, the invincible conqueror of hell, the world and death, will come into the abode or upper room of your heart, and will remain within you.

“What, therefore, are you going to do; what are you going to prepare for the arrival of such a great Lord? Collect your wandering mind and scattered thoughts and fix your spirit on one thing: that it would try and be able to see only Jesus, that it may long to receive Him with a burning desire, to be refreshed, to be sustained, to be delighted by Him; that it may have dealings only with Him, having brushed aside all other dealings and delights.

“For He went to see the apostles only when they were gathered together, and He appeared to them only when they were burning with the greatest desire to see Him.”

Sometimes we forget the great privilege of having the risen Jesus in our midst in the Eucharist. Our thoughts focus our attention elsewhere. It may be helpful to give our minds and hearts time to settle through prayer before Mass, to allow our deepest desire – of union with Him – to burst forth from our hearts. 

We cannot “will” our minds to focus upon Him, but we can give our hearts time to settle and love Him.

How can you practically “fix your spirit” on Jesus in preparation for Communion? What distractions or “dealings” hinder a single-hearted focus?

2. “Peace be with you.” 
“Behold peace, the most desired companion of the Divine Presence and its most certain effect. So, focus your attention and understand that Jesus is never present to you when you are lacking peace of soul, and that He is always compelled to flee from the dwelling of your soul because of serious imperfections, whenever you succumb to interior disorders. You are taught this by the example of David: Having offended the Divine Majesty, he experienced, besides pestilence, the torment that those who were friendliest to him became his most hostile enemies…

“Therefore, may your peace be with the peacemaking Solomon: Jesus Christ. When you do not have it, quickly perform an examination of your conscience, and just as quickly a sweet tranquility of heart will descend upon you.”

We easily become focused upon the external tasks at hand, having lost touch with our hearts. We may be unaware that we have lost the precious gift of peace, and even if we accomplish many things, we tinge them all with our anxiety, hurry, and worry. 

Jesus always gazes upon us, even when we lack such peace. But even if He is present to us, we are not present to Him nor can we feel His presence and love. He does not flee from us to abandon us, but He allows our faults to burden our hearts to teach us to slow down and return to Him through conversion of heart. For He loves us more than we love ourselves, and He knows that, without Him, we can do nothing. But with Him, we can do all things and spread His peace.

How quickly do you recognize any lack of peace? What imperfections or disordered desires disturb your peace? How can you turn more quickly to Jesus?

3. “Why are you troubled?”
“The Lord knew the apostles as those who had already experienced delusions and deceptions, and therefore, by appearing to them, He exhorted them not to fear. For these holy disciples of the heavenly Master knew that both the evil one and the Jews were hostile to them, and therefore they were on their guard against the traps of each of these two enemies. For this reason, upon visiting them, this good and gracious Master advised them not to be afraid as soon as He appeared, and said, revealing Himself to them: ‘It is I’ [cf. Lk 24:39]. 

“Undoubtedly, a man should know that divine charisms, graces, illuminations, and heavenly visions will not cause any disturbance and fear in the soul, but will produce the greatest sense of security and peace. Indeed, who could fear with the Lord standing by his side? ‘Though a host encamp against me… my heart shall not fear; though war arise against me, yet I will be confident’ (Ps 27:3). 

“Surely, the one armed with the shield of the Divine Presence fights safely and boldly. O the blessed one, who shall receive today the Lord Himself, substantially, that is, in a sacramental manner! The One to whom all things are obedient, of whom all things are afraid, and whom nothing can resist!”

Our hearts are often troubled by fears of the worst because suffering and death are real. Yet, even more real is the risen Lord, who personally stands beside us through Holy Communion. He is greater than all our trials, and “nothing can resist” Him. At each Sunday Mass, we present our troubled hearts to Jesus, asking that He personally be present in and with us throughout the week amid our difficulties.

How aware are you of the presence of the risen Jesus throughout the week? How can you spiritually renew your Holy Communion and arm yourself with the “shield of the Divine Presence”?

After Holy Communion

1. “But they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost.”
“Reflect upon the great prudence and caution of the assembled disciples: For although they were not unaware, and indeed were fully informed that the Lord would rise from the dead, yet upon seeing Him, they were terrified and trembled with fear. Oh, if only you would in this manner proceed more cautiously in your spiritual journey! You would certainly never wander from the right path and rarely, indeed never, would you be deceived. If you were so watchful and prudent in avoiding the cunning ploys of the evil one, you would never fall for them. If you proceeded on the journey of perfection in this saintly and wise manner, you would never fall grievously.

“Therefore today at least, pay attention when the eternal light illuminates you, lest by chance you be led into the dense darkness of imperfections, deceived by a spirit who is not good. But you will avoid them if, distrustful of yourself, you follow this heavenly light like a bright lighthouse.”

While we ought to surrender excessive worry and anxiety that disturbs peace of heart, we need to remain vigilant in our choices in daily life. There are many “cunning ploys” of the evil one, ever more present because of mass media. But if we remain faithful to the “eternal light” that “illuminates” us through Holy Communion, we will arrive at heaven “like a bright lighthouse.” 

Whatever takes me away from that union with Jesus is a ploy of the enemy, while we ought to embrace even the Cross when it leads us to the Lord, who is truly risen in His glorious body given to you in Communion.

What cunning ploys of the enemy assail you? How can you have recourse to the light of faith in moments of doubt and temptation?

2. “Why do questions arise in your hearts?”
“Watch, watch your every thought carefully both today and always, and do not give outsiders access to your mind or open to them the door of your heart without a long deliberation. For such thoughts bring with themselves so much evil into a miserable soul, such great damage! For the evil spirit first elicits a thought, and then this thought poisons or carries off the cleanness of the heart. Once it has been carried off, an enormous sadness follows which, by weakening the strength of the spirit, makes it unfit for anything and not seldom throws some people into such an abyss of despair that, having rejected the salutary yoke of Christ, they remove the hand from the plough and desist from the cultivation of the field of the soul that they had previously started. 

“Therefore, resist this enemy, expel this evil from the threshold of your mind, and keep your heart pure for the purest Lord, both today and throughout the entire course of your life.”

Saint Paul enjoins upon us to “take every thought captive in obedience to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). However, this does not mean constant introspection. Rather, it means being present to oneself and taking dominion over one’s mind. We certainly cannot control every thought by an act of the will. But we can, however, act contrary to the temptation and choose Christ. 

What St. Stanislaus encourages is aiming at the root of what disturbs our peace: the questions that plague our hearts when not surrendered to the risen Christ, whose light drives out the darkness of doubt.

What questions plague your heart? How can you be vigilant regarding the thoughts that bring sadness and discouragement, removing the Easter joy?

3. “Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.”
“As a commander is recognized by his insignia and a king by his diadem, so Christ our heavenly King wants to be recognized by His Most Sacred Stigmata. ‘See,’ He says, ‘[M]y hands and feet.’ It is as if He were saying: If you fear to be deceived, turn your attention to My pierced hands and feet. If you doubt that I am your true Commander, behold My insignia, the five wounds. Just as you contemplated Me on the Cross on Good Friday, so here I appear to you: Recognize your Lord, welcome Him, and rejoice in His presence. 

“But, oh my soul, if you want to be considered as one of the soldiers of the army of this wounded Commander, you should desire the same things and have similar wounds, though not such as St. Francis [of Assisi] received. Which ones then? Love, patience, forgetting injuries, bearing hardships, and carrying your cross until death.”

What wounds are you willing to bear in imitation of Christ? How will you tend to those wounds in others?

Next week: Fourth Sunday of Easter
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