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What Exactly does Jesus Mean by “The Heart”? (Part II of II)

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

ThePeopleSeekJesusToMakeHimKing(OnChercheJesusPourLeFaireRoi)JamesTissotLoving 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:

CSLewismuralThere 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.

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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.

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 Art: The People Seek Jesus to Make Him King, James Tissot, between 1886-1894, PD-US; From Mural depicting C.S. Lewis and images associated with his work, Ballymacarrett Road, east Belfast, Northern Ireland, Author =Keresaspa, 2011-04-12, CC; both Wikimedia Commons.
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About Fr. John Bartunek, LC

Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, "Inside the Passion"--the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: "The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer". His most recent books are "Spring Meditations", "Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength", and "Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions". Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.

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