Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Matthew 22:34–40
I descended the aisle, genuflected before the tabernacle, and pivoted left. Placing a neatly folded bill into the wooden offering box secured to the wall, I assumed I’d light a blue votive and take my usual place before the statue of our Blessed Mother. But something stopped me.
Let me rephrase that. Someone moved me.
It was a mother’s whisper to the ear of my heart that gently instructed, “Go to Jesus.” Shifting my focus, I chose to light a red votive, took to my knees, and before bowing my head, lifted my eyes to the statue of Jesus. With one hand stretched out, showing me His wounded palm, and His other hand pointing to His sacred heart, all aflame, I was struck by an inexhaustible love.
Oh, how I wish I loved like Him.
I heard a Franciscan Sister of Renewal share that, "God makes some people with a heart that’s meant to be undivided for Him.” That’s what I want! Of course, she was referring to God’s call to the religious life, and, currently speaking, that is not an option for me, despite how tempting. However, increasing my love for the Lord is never too late.
Because “Help me to love you more” has been the cry of my heart, I was hardly surprised when assigned to reflect on this Sunday's gospel. It’s the Gospel of Matthew and the Pharisee’s infamous question,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus replies, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:36–37).
There’s more to this gospel, but I can’t get past the heart.
Do you love God with all your heart? I don’t. “But of course, you love God,” you say, observing my external devotion. “You go to Mass and wake up early to pray!” While this is true on the outside, what happens interiorly is another story. I’m referring to the secret thoughts peppered with envy and pride and the daily complaints, murmuring, and criticism. Oh, my friends. I do love God, but not with my whole heart. You’ve got to dig through a whole lot of chaos to find Him.
According to the Bible, our hearts are responsible for more than one might realize. Matthew 9:4 says we think with our hearts. John 16:22 says we hold emotion in our hearts. Acts 11:23 tells us that the will is a part of our hearts. And Hebrews 10:22 says our consciences are a part of our hearts. All this makes up the whole heart, or what the Catechism of the Catholic Church describes as “our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others.” This is the heart God desires, but what does its love look like?
Loving the Lord with our whole heart engages the entire person, not just our heart but our mind and soul. A complete love gives Jesus access to every area of our life; nothing is off-limits. It is a love so utterly sold-out that it obeys God’s every command, even those we don’t understand. It is love gone so wild that it does more than tolerate the unlikable; it pours them a cup of coffee and says, “Hey, sit with me!” It is a beautiful, dangerous love because while it does not guarantee you will get what you want, in its perfection, it gives you what you need.
But we don’t want a dangerous love, do we? Life is scary enough, so we prefer keeping our relationships safe, comfortable, and casual. But here’s the problem with casual: there is nothing casual about the Catholic faith. Nothing is casual about the Incarnation, Passion, Resurrection, or the daily Eucharistic miracle. There is nothing casual about the liturgy or the sacraments. The apostles were not casual, nor were the saints. (Go ahead and google “patron saint of casual.” It doesn’t exist.) And there is certainly nothing casual about God, His love, and the love He desires in return.
I came face to face with my own casual faith in a moment of grace. While our pastor was preaching, he glanced toward Jesus crucified and began to weep. His love for the Lord was so complete it poured out from his whole heart and filled the pews. I sat in the overflow, totally wrecked.
How have I been approaching my Lord so casually, I wondered?
Have I forgotten all that He has done for me?
Has “going to Mass” become another box to check?
Where are my tears when I see Jesus crucified?
As I approached the altar and knelt to receive my Lord and Savior, these questions ran through my mind. And for a brief and dangerous moment, He had all my heart.
Do you long to love the Lord with all your heart?
If I point you to one thing that makes all the difference, it would be less time looking at your feelings and what you get out of Mass and more time looking at the sacrifice on the altar and what you have to offer. It’s a small step, but I have seen the fruits. When I am mindful of the reality of the crucifixion—the bloodied version versus the sanitized one we’ve grown so comfortable with—it is impossible not to love. When I recall how Jesus emptied himself for the love of me, how can I not empty myself for the love of Him?
It’s dangerous to love with all you’ve got, but it’s the least we can give to the Giver who gave all. Wouldn’t you agree?
Food for thought and journaling:
Do you love the Lord with a casual faith? Meditate on the crucifix and allow Him to remind you of what His love cost.
Then pray, Jesus, meek and humble, make my heart like unto Thine. Amen.
 Sr. Maria Teresa, “CFR Sister Vocation Story,” YouTube (accessed Oct 2023): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owpZd39-fE0.
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd edition (Vatican: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2012), #2563.