By Francis Patrick Donnelly
THE WHOLE HEART
Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with thy whole heart.
We are commanded to have the whole heart for God. There are no fractions, no small currency in His mart. We do not give Him so much and wait for the change. He takes all our gold. We are commanded to be whole-hearted, not halfhearted, and it is within our power to be so, for God does not command impossibilities. It is to be noted what this command means; otherwise our soul will surely be bewildered. "Thou shalt love with thy whole heart." We are bid to love with all the heart that belongs to us, that comes within the control of our will. The will does not open or shut at its pleasure the lachrymal glands. It does not light up the eyes with happiness or darken them with sorrow as it wishes. It can spread a smile on the face, but cannot prevent it at times from being no more than muscular. In a word, our feelings are partly rooted in the body, and may be as much beyond our voluntary control as digestion is. The manifestation of feeling may be checked; its presence or absence cannot always be managed as we desire. "With thy whole heart" does not mean with tears or smiles. If we long to have these trimmings of human love, that very longing bathes our heart with tears or wreathes it with laughter, even if our lips are marble and our eyes a sandy desert without an oasis. "With thy whole heart" does not mean feeling which we cannot always have; the phrase does mean willing, an action we can always do.
We love God with the whole heart when we do not give our service to false gods or to God's enemies, when we rate God at the highest price in the universe, and His infinite excellence makes it possible and reasonable always to do that. We love God with the whole heart when word and thought and act, and all our life have but one bent and direction, which is towards Him. The right love of self, of family, of friends, of country, are not fractions taken from God's love; on the contrary, they are the parts which make up that love. If the stream flows towards God, not one of those currents must be
diverted from paying its due tribute to the sea. The mother weeping in wild grief for her dead child is loving God with her whole heart. God gave her a mother's heart; He imparted a share of His infinite loveliness to her lost one, and in her very cry and heart-ache is made vocal the void which God left in us to be filled by Himself. The mother would like to, but perhaps cannot, shower on God, as she does on her child, the flood of her tears or the wealth of her smiles, but while she recognizes in the loveliness of her little one but a tiny drop of God's infinite lovableness, she is wholehearted for her child and for her God.
The Heart of Christ will show us how to weave the separate and various strands of human love into the vesture of many colors, "without a seam," which is to be placed at the feet of God. It would be a mistake to think that the Heart of Jesus did not thrill with the affections which He has implanted in our hearts and wishes us to manifest according to His law. His teaching reveals His Heart. The touching picture of the mother hen gathering her chickens, which described His love for His people; the images of the good shepherd, of the woman's search for the lost coin, of the more than earthly father of the prod} gal, which tell of His love for sinners, those, with many other words of Christ, put before us clearly and tenderly the affections of His Heart.
His friendships are even more significant than His words. They are not all the same. They had an appropriateness in their variety. "I know Mine and Mine know Me." Mary, His Mother, and Mary Magdalene, John and Peter, Lazarus and Martha, all found a place in His Heart, and to each He accorded an individual love, suitable and fitting. The knowledge He had of each was varied; the friendship followed suit. The manifestation, too, of these friendships was different. His Heart showed itself in tears at the tomb of Lazarus, flashed forth a melting look for Peter, thrilled in the deepest tenderness in the call of "Mary" to Magdalene, and was lavished on St. Joseph and His Mother through thirty years of loving subjection. In spite of, or, rather, because of, all these friendships for those whom He met in life, friendships that are repeated in every soul that turns to Him, the friendship of Christ for His Father was whole-hearted. Indeed, so vigorously, so sternly did He assert the absolute claims of His Father, short-sighted criticism forgets that Christ knew the Fourth Commandment, forgets that He was lovingly subject to His Mother ten times longer than He worked openly for the world, and that she was in His thoughts as He died. Criticism forgets all this because it forgets that the love of the mother can be and must be united with the love of God. The fire of whole-heartedness purines and converts into its own rising flames all the fuel that it touches. Listen to the strong language of whole-heartedness: "Whosoever shall do the will of My Father, who is in Heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother." "If any man come to Me and hate not his father and mother and wife and children and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple." These are other ways of saying what Christ said in the first commandment, "with thy whole heart." His life, His Heart show us how they are to be understood. God must not have any rivals; to Him all must be directed; and whatever feelings may dictate, if they make willing easy by going with the will or make willing hard by going the other way, the will must, as it can, be wholehearted in preferring God to any created thing when the soul stands at the parting of the ways. It can, and it must, love the friends God gives, but it must stop short at sin. The heart must be wholehearted.
Look at the love of the Heart of Jesus. It was whole-hearted in extent, for men: "having loved His own, He loved them unto the end;" for God: "He was obedient to death, even to the death of the Cross." "Unto," "even to," are the badges of wholeheartedness. The love of Christ was wholehearted in its nature.
It went forth to creatures without straying from God. The splendor of the sun may be separated by crystal glass or crystal water into its various component colors; the rainbow hues may again be blended into the whiteness whence they came. The love from the Heart of Christ went forth in all its varied beauty to many hearts on earth, but it stayed not centered and arrested in any one, but, uniting its rays, passed on again to God. God is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end of the whole heart, and the Heart of Christ was the most complete of whole hearts.