Consider the heart: at the center of the body, it is essential to life. When we speak of the heart in matters of faith, we mean the center of our being, our key values lived out, our motive core.
God wants our hearts to grow up. Less mature hearts tend to be focused on themselves. Young children are focused on their own needs: tired, hungry, in pain or upset, their need of the moment is overwhelming and they are fixed on nothing else. As children mature, they learn that their own needs are not the only “game in town”: the needs of others become more important. Responsible parenthood is a form of maturity of the heart. Good parents put the good of their children before their own good. They sacrifice for their children, live, and if necessary, die, so that their children may live. The child may be self-interested, immature: that is the nature of children. But a good parent is mature, not self-interested. Indeed, God introduces himself to us as a good parent, as a loving Father. In Jesus, we learn about the Father. Jesus shows us the love of the Father – Our Father – by loving us and placing our needs before his own.
When Jesus was asked, “What is the greatest commandment?”, he gave two, so intimately connected that one cannot be considered apart from the other. The first is love of God: love with one’s whole heart and soul and mind, and the second is love of neighbor “as yourself”. This is all really one commandment, the law of love.
A mature heart, therefore, lives out the love of God and the love of neighbor. In practice, the love of God lived out looks like this: to center oneself on God, to do what is right even if it is not comfortable or convenient, to do what is right rather than what is expedient, to do what is right even when one’s self-interest is better served by something else. The love of neighbor lived out looks like this: to put others before oneself, to treat others as one wishes to be treated, to be other-interested instead of self-interested.
Jesus does not merely ask this of us, he lives it himself. He did everything out of love of God the Father, done because it was right. He did so at a huge cost to himself: he gave up his own comfort, his own life. He died on the cross for the good of others. His love is illustrated by the image of his Sacred Heart: a shining heart on fire with love, the cross atop, thorns surrounding. This is not a proud heart, one full of self-love and self-interest, this is a humble heart, full of love for others. It is a mature heart: no childish self-centeredness here, but one who is centered in God the Father, centered in the truth, placing the needs of others before his own. This sort of heart is the sort God wants to give us: a heart like Jesus. Hence we pray: Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto thine.
©Agapios Theophilus, 2016