By Francis Patrick Donnelly
THE SAINTLY HEART
THE SAINTLY HEART
From the heart come forth evil thoughts.
For from the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies,blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man. But to eat with unwashed hands doth not defile a man."
"Out of the heart" are the momentous words that proclaim a far-reaching principle, a revolution in morals, an emancipation from traditional slavery, a declaration of independence from mere formalities. "Out of the heart" transferred morals from manners to man, from the hand to the heart. The heart makes good and evil, because the heart is free, and man should be more anxious about cleansing the heart than washing the hands. Christ's purpose must not be misunderstood. He no more condemned fasting here than He approved of gluttony. His purpose was to refer holiness to its proper source, to restore the heart to its lawful throne. Fasting may be holiness, or it may be hypocrisy, and it is the heart that makes the difference. Neither does Christ condemn the washing of hands. To wash the hands may be an aid to holiness; it will not constitute holiness. Christ did not wish to abolish ceremonies; He wished to abolish superstition, and formalism, and hypocrisy. He would restore circulation to the heart, and then there would be adoration in spirit and truth united with the appropriate expression of both in word, in garb, and in ritual.
The purpose, then, of Christ was to put the emphasis in the right place. There is a tremendous significance in the words, "out of the heart." They designate in the case of sin an act of man's free will, deliberately choosing evil instead of good, or making the choice out of an evil motive, or permitting the act of the will to lack its due perfection. The one who dips his hand in the mud with evil intent to cast it upon another, has a soiled object, a soiled hand and a soiled purpose. "Out of the heart" may come deeds thrice stained; stained because the heart's object may be evil; stained because the heart's action may be evil, like the soiled fingers; stained because the heart's motive may be evil. Out of the heart may come deeds bearing but one of these stains, yet teeming with dread consequences. It is that standard of morality set by Christ that makes all the difference in the world, or, rather, which makes an eternal difference. No detail of life that comes within the scope of man's free will escapes the influence of the heart. Every detail comes from a saintly or a sinful heart and bears with it the seeds of everlasting consequences. A man builds a monument.
How long will it perpetuate his name? For a few years only. "Out of the heart" come monuments untouched by the ruinous finger of time. Man can send his thoughts and his voice over the land and across the sea. "Out of the heart" reaches a wire which sends man's soul over the wide chasm of the grave into the unending depths of Heaven or hell. Christ restored freedom to man's heart, but did not take away the heart's responsibility.
Out of Christ's Heart came the sanctification of mankind. It is the brimming ocean of all our holiness. The grace won by His opened Heart serves to purify our hearts. Every thought, word or deed, freed from the triple stain of sinful object, sinful circumstances, and sinful end, and bright with the corresponding triple good, lacks the evil and rejoices in the good because of Christ's opened Heart. There is not the tiniest atom of holiness in the universe which does not reveal to the microscopic gaze of faith a tinge of the blood which passed through the Heart of Christ.
The Heart of Christ is holy because It is the cause of all created holiness, and, further, It is holy in Itself. Christ was God, and, as such, infinitely holy in many ways, and especially in the way of purest love. Sin is the embracing of evil by the heart; sinlessness is the embracing of good, and infinite sinlessness is the love of infinite good. God's holiness is infinite because His love is infinitely pure. Its object is God Himself; its motive is God, and there is no stopping short of infinite purity in the perfection of the act of love in itself. Love in God measures up to the level of His knowledge of Himself. The will which loves, will love as intensely and as extensively as it knows, and in God the knowledge of Himself is infinite. The object, the motive, the act may be stained in human love; in God they are all infinitely pure, and His holiness is infinite.
Christ as man participated of the holiness of God. We are indeed made holy by the vesting of our souls with God's grace. That created gift of God makes us, as St. Peter says, "partakers of the divine nature." What, then, must be the holiness of Christ, to whose human nature God Himself is united, not by the unstable bond of grace, but by the union, permanent and intimate, of His Second Person. And mark! Christ was not denied the fullness of created grace. He was to be the perennial source of all created holiness and "of His fulness we all have received." The Heart of Christ is holy by union with the infinite holy Person of God, and holy with as much grace as a created soul is capable of.
We are bewildered with the splendor of this holiness. Our eyes are fixed on the central fiery core of an unblemished sun, where the trace of an imperfection
could not survive for a moment in the purging whiteness of love's purest heat. We are watching the flames that blend and rise to God from the Heart of Christ. No wonder that artists have crowned that Heart with a blaze of light and pictured It as consumed in Its own splendor.
The observance of law is the test of love as it is the expression of holiness. "If you love Me, keep My commandments." This is Christ's own test, and fully does His Heart measure up
to it. The law is the manifestation of the will of the law-giver, and holiness is found in abiding by that will. The ineffably pure affection of Christ's Heart loves God for the sake of God alone, and loves Him perfectly. His commandments become Its commandments, for love makes the will of the lawgiver the will of the lover, and so law is transformed and passes into its perfect state in that fervent fusion of love's making; law becomes love, and love becomes law. So it is in the saintly Heart of Christ, and so it is in every saintly heart that is modeled after His.