Love God with all your heart

17th Sunday after Pentecost
Friends in Christ, for 20 centuries, saints and mystics and poets, have puzzled over what happened in the mind of Judas. After Judas betrayed Christ, he gave back the money and hanged himself. But this is not the behavior of an ordinary greedy man. The typical miser loves nothing but money, and would have never even thought of giving back the money, much less of ending his life.
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Judas was greedy, but he was something else besides. There was inside of him, two loves. One, the love of money, and the other love was something else – another love, which flamed up, after his betrayal. We cannot find any other object for this other love except for Jesus. Judas felt a love for Christ, but the flame of this love was tainted with a shadow, his heart was divided. So says Father Ricciotti, in his book ‘The Life of Christ.’ 
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The Gospel today tells us the Greatest Commandment: ‘Thou shall love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, thy whole soul and thy whole mind.’ The mystery of the divided heart in Judas is a mystery which repeats itself through history. I knew a young man who felt called to the priesthood; but his heart was so attached to other things – pleasures, comforts, desires of this life – Year after year he lived with a heart torn by two loves, a tortured heart; comforts and desires of this life won out.
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Very few people, actually, love God with their whole heart.[i] Most love their relatives, their friends, their sports, more – God must even compete with love of pets!  Of these St. John says, they do not have life, they are dead. 1 John 3:14 – ‘He who does not love, abides in death.’
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We are commanded to love God with our WHOLE heart, not part of it. Not holding on to our favorite sin, or vice, or habit. To love God totally, is to seek to become a saint. To become a saint, is to love God totally. And this is to find happiness: total love of God IS happiness.
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And love is not an emotion or high-sounding words, it is in the will. Thomas Aquinas’ sister asked him, ‘How can I become a saint.’ His reply: ‘Just will it.’   In other words, ‘Do it!’ A person loves God, not by what he says, or even how many prayers he can say. It is whether he does everything in his life for the sole purpose of pleasing God.
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This week will be the feast day of St. Joseph Cupertino, the Flying Saint. For him, over 70 documented cases of levitation. Once, the Spanish Admiral and his wife visited the Franciscans, and Joseph went to see them in the Church. But entering, he noticed up high, the statue of Mary, and overcome with emotion, he flew 30 feet over them to the statue. Everyone was speechless.  He once saw a lamb, and thinking of the Lamb of God,  filled with love, he took it in his arms and floated up into the air. Joseph would often say, ‘Have a good intention in everything you do,’ do all for God.
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To love God with all our heart, is to do everything, always, with the intention of pleasing God. The most insignificant action done in order to please the Lord, is of infinitely greater value than many impressive works done without this motive.[ii]
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Inside of each person we may say, there are two wills. The superior will and the sensual will. These two war against each other. The sensual will is the appetites, the flesh, the passions, desires. These war against the superior will in us, our mind. St. Paul says, I see another power in me making war against my mind.[iii]
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So there is above, God’s will, calling us to good; and there is our superior will, which wants God, and to praise and please him; but then there are the lower appetites, the sensual will, which lures us to choose against God. This is the war of the two loves.
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Yet who is more worthy of our love than God? Our dear Father in heaven, who is so infinitely powerful that he can make planets and suns, and so infinitely good, as to send his Son to die for us. St. Augustine says that God has a greater desire to do good to us than we have to receive it. And even if the most revolting sinner on earth were to repent of his sins, Our Father instantly pardons and embraces him. Who is more deserving of our love? No one.
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We should then examine ourselves: do we love God with our whole heart? What is it that drives us? What is it that we really desire the most? This is what we love. I know people who when they hear about some blasphemy, or some filthy artwork by a freak artist against Christ, or some mockery of the Church, they will say, ‘O, that’s a shame.’ Or when told that the government has made laws against Christ’s Church, her freedom of religion, they will say, ‘well, it doesn’t concern me.’ Yet say one word against their favorite sports team, and they will become outraged, and leap to its defense, with many reasons and explanations – to defend their love. Disagree with some over the latest fashion or criticize their favorite movie star, and they will boil with passion.
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You don’t have to scratch very deep, to find a person’s love. When someone offends the object of our love, or hinders us from obtaining it – when you see a person aroused to anger over the thing dear to their heart – then you will find what they love, and many times it is not God. Jesus said, ‘Your treasure is where your heart is.’
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So where is our heart? Is it entangled in useless things, giving God second or even 3rd place? The heart of the Blessed Virgin was never entangled in other loves; ‘Mary, you are called ‘Mother of Good Counsel.’ Counsel us, your children, and untangle our hearts, that we will love God with our whole heart, and soul, and mind.

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Entrusted to the prayers of St. Nicholas

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[i] Ideas here are borrowed from ‘Sermons of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, p. 345.

[ii] Spiritual Combat, p. 28-30.

[iii] See Romans 7:23

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