Dear Father John, You’ve written about focusing on the heart and what the Bible says in the Psalms “May He grant you your heart’s desire.” I can think of a lot of things I would like to have. But, what is really my heart’s desire? What is my deepest desire?
LOVING GOD WITH all one’s heart simply means making God–an increasing communion with him, an ever-deepening friendship with him–the highest priority and guiding principle of one’s life. It is love understood as the fundamental desire, the fundamental orientation of one’s life.
When Jesus began his public ministry with a call to conversion, this is what he was getting at. By announcing that “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15), he was pointing out that in him, God-become-man, full communion with God is now truly possible. God has made himself one of us, so that we can enter into a real friendship with him. Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. Before Jesus, God was close to his people, but it was a closeness always mediated by something: by creation, by his revelation and his commandments, by his prophets.
In Jesus, who is truly God and truly man, God’s closeness has taken a definitive turn, and we can love God with all our heart truly, through a fully human relationship with the eternal God, through knowing and following the Son. All it takes is leaving behind any idols, any fundamental desire that can’t be subordinated to or harmonized with the desire to live in communion with God: “Repent, and believe in the gospel!” (Mark 1:15).
Running to Win
A healthy professional football team has one overarching goal, one fundamental desire: to win the championship. All the decisions made by the coaches and players are made with that in mind. All the activities they engage in, all the sacrifices they make, all the intermediate objectives and challenges, are seen and dealt with in light of that goal. That goal is the ultimate source of the entire team’s dynamism, effort, and yearnings. The championship is the treasure they are hunting and hoping for; everything else takes on meaning through its relationship with that treasure.
St. Paul draws a parallel between this kind of all-encompassing, athletic treasure hunt and a Christian’s hunt for greater and greater intimacy with Christ here on earth and the definitive, total communion with him forever in heaven:
Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24—27)
When I love God with all my heart, my relationship with him becomes the axis of my activity, the magnet that brings order and dynamism into all the otherwise scattered shards of my life, the organizing principle around which every other element is arranged.
In part II, we will discuss Love’s purifying fire and St. Ignatius of Loyola’s concept of “tanto cuanto.”
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.
Art: Christ Emmanuel, Simon Ushakov, 1697, PD-US, Wikimedia Commons.