By Francis Patrick Donnelly
THE UNSELFISH HEART
The multitude of believers had but one heart.
"The multitude had but one heart." That is, we believe, the greatest miracle of the New Testament; that is a convincing proof of the divinity of the Christian Church. God alone could accomplish that tremendous achievement, and so it was, for in the verse just before the one quoted you may read: "And when they had prayed, the place was moved wherein they had assembled; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost." It was the Holy Ghost that took the multitudes of hearts, melted them in the furnace of Heaven and then moulded one heart for all out of them all.
What was the change wrought in that conquering, purifying fire, which made men's hearts lose everything individual, peculiar, private and selfish so that they blended and were moulded into one, unalloyed mass of virgin ore? A multitude of sheep become one flock because they acknowledge one shepherd and hearken to one voice that they know. Every sheep has to give up its own inclinations and submit to the inclination of the shepherd. As long as they retain their own voice they are just sheep; when they take one voice they become a flock.
All unity in some way begins with individual sacrifice and is perfected by one principle. What was the sacrifice, what the unifying principle that put one great heart into a multitude, that wedded, or rather that welded, multiplicity into unity? The answer is found in the words following those first quoted: "Neither did anyone say that aught of the things which he possessed was his own, but all things were common to them." The sacrifice each one made was of "his own" and the unifying principle was "common to all." Detachment and unselfishness are the instruments that in the hands of the Holy Ghost made the one heart. The fleshy wrapping of the human heart is called the pericardium and is made of tough sinew. It is painful to stretch it far. But the moral pericardium, the selfish wrapping around the human will is tougher still. The early Christians did not try to stretch it; they threw it away, and the Holy Ghost put all their wills inside of one large pericardium. They gave up all personal, possessive pronouns of the singular number. "Mine, thine, his," and the like make little hearts; "ours," or rather "God's," make the great, unselfish, one heart.
What heart was more unselfish than the Heart of Christ? The hearts of the early Christians were once selfish; Christ's Heart never was. Their hearts were narrow, small and had to be enlarged; the Heart of Christ was made large from the beginning. It was made to hold God's love for men; it was made to hold all men. A great miracle, indeed, it was to identify the varied wishes of the multitude, and bring them by detachment and unselfishness to unite in one wish; a marvel, to thrill all with the same common love, and turn all hearts one way as obediently as all the compasses of the world face one direction under the spell of the magnetic current. But Christ's detachment and His unselfishness are a divine wonder. Christ could not detach Himself from His Divinity. That was Himself. But to all outward appearances He had done so. The prophets saw Him detached almost from His humanity. "He was a worm and no man." St. Paul saw Him detached from His royalty. "He emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant." Something harder and more generous in our way of thinking was the detachment of Christ from His own will. His Heart, in the truest sense of the word, was not His own; It was the Father's and ours. Christ sacrificed for us the personal, possessive pronouns. "Not Mine," "the business of the Father," "the will of the Father," "the will of Him that sent Me," this is the language of Christ's Heart, the evidence of the complete identification of His will with the Father's will.
The possessions of the early Christians were anybody's because they were everybody's. Such too, was the complete surrender of the Heart of Christ to us. Its love is for all and yet as fully for each of us as if each were all. "He loved me; He delivered Himself up for me," cries St. Paul, and everyone may say the same with like sublime egotism. There is not a single drop of blood in Christ's Heart that had any other purpose in coming into life, in continuing in life and going out of life than that. Every drop says: "I love you; I deliver myself up for you, and if you were the only one in existence, My Heart's blood would go out for you." There is the truly unselfish heart that holds the universe and loves all without ceasing to love each.
How eager that unselfish Heart was to show that Its contents had but one purpose, to be shed for us! His blood was deeply stirred in the Garden at the spectacle of the Passion. It felt straitened until that great work should be accomplished. If the casing of His Heart would try to restrain that bubbling flood, then in Its supreme unselfishness It would know what to do; It would break through the barriers of flesh and form beads and streams of ruddy sweat, anticipating in unselfish eagerness the Calvary of the morrow.