Dear Father John, when I hear the readings at Mass, I hear Jesus talk about the heart all the time. But, what exactly does He mean?
Editor’s Note: In the first part of this series, we explored what Jesus means by “the heart” and we talked about where our treasure is. Today, we will discuss the importance of continuing to seek the Lord, and how to know if we are learning to love God with all our heart.
Keep On Seeking
Loving God with all our heart means wanting, above everything else, to grow continually in our communion with him, in our friendship with him. This desire may start small, but as we grow, it also grows. And as our heart comes to love God more and more fully, every other desire is slowly but surely subordinated to and harmonized with that overarching desire, and so every experience, circumstance, and activity serves to bring us into a deeper knowledge of him. This is why Jesus was able to assure us, “Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God” (Matthew 5:8).
In the end, we get what we want. If we truly want God, if our heart is set on pursuing God, on seeking him, on living in a deeper and deeper communion with him, God will not deny us that treasure, which is called heaven–after all, that’s what he created us for. This is why he can solemnly promise: “Seek and you will find” (Matthew 7:7). In the original Greek, the verb “seek” has the sense of an ongoing process: “Keep on seeking, and you will find.” If we keep our hearts pointed toward God, we will reach full communion with God, wherein we find our happiness.
On the other hand, if we persistently prefer to seek our fulfillment in something else, in some idol–whether other relationships, achievements, or pleasures–leaving communion with God as a secondary concern, or as no concern at all, God will honor our choice. He will keep trying to convince us to set aside our idols in favor of his friendship, but he won’t force us to do so. If we keep declining his invitations to the end, the purpose for which we were created–living in communion with God–will be everlastingly frustrated, and this is called hell.
Two Kinds of People
C.S. Lewis put it simply and eloquently in his masterpiece, The Great Divorce, referring to our Lord’s amazing promise about seeking and finding:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7—8).
Lewis comments on that dictum as follows:
There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.*
When Jesus commands us to love God with all our heart, he is teaching us the right answer to the very first question he asked in the Gospel of John, a question that each of us must answer anew every single day of our lives: “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38). Where am I hoping to find the happiness I cannot resist desiring? If I hope to find it in God, I am loving God with my heart. As I progressively learn to hope to find it in God alone, and to order all the other smaller loves of my heart around that greatest love, I am learning to love God with all my heart.
*C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce: Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis; (New York: HarperCollins, Kindle edition 2009) location 731—734.
Editor’s Note: This is another excerpt from Father John Bartunek’s new book “Seeking First the Kingdom” filled with “practical examples and down-to-earth wisdom which will show you how to bring Christ into each facet of your life”. Click here to learn more about the book…or if you wish to get it for a friend or relative who doesn’t read on line.