Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Deepest Desire of Our Heart Is Holy

October 18, 2015 –– 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Conversion Series
The Deepest Desire of Our Heart Is Holy

For these weeks preceding Advent we are doing a sermon series to highlight the importance of being totally committed to Jesus Christ. Think about it: If Christianity is not true, then as St Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “let’s just try to make life one big party” (that’s a paraphrase translation of 1 Cor 15:32). On the other hand, if it is indeed true that God came into our world as a Man, gave his life in order to absorb the evil in us and all the world, and then rose from the dead to give us eternal life, there is nothing greater nor more important.

Every week we confess the Creed and say we believe it. Over the past weeks we have reviewed some basic implications. Why are there pain and suffering in this world? Because the world is broken! Yet there is something within us that cries out for a more perfect world. In our hearts we know that there is more, and the deepest Truth is that God is searching for us. Our sins are no obstacle to God. We do not deserve God’s love, but we have it anyway––not because of who we are, but because of who God is. The God who created me wants more for my life, just as I do. We all have a deep and insatiable hunger for what is right and good and true.

I often think about my deepest desires. I think about the kind of life, if it were in my power, that I would give my children and grandchildren. My first concern is not for material wealth. And while I would prefer it, my greatest desire would not be for their health and comfort. My deepest desire is that my children know the God who made them, and that they will seek to have the character of Jesus formed into their own lives. It is people like that who have an observable beauty that others notice.

Think of the things that so easily and quickly move the human heart––a baby or a small child…. a person who is observably handicapped, yet accomplishing a task seemingly beyond his ability…. a radiant young woman whose beauty does not need the manipulation of immodesty…. a husband and wife of well-advanced years enjoying life, obviously still in love. We can also be stirred by stories of courage and sacrifice. The glories of nature give us spontaneous thrills––a panoramic sunset…. a majestic mountain overlook….

Think too of the qualities we so naturally admire in the saints. Think of the purity of St Agnes and St. Maria Goretti. Think of the simple love of Therese of Lisieux. Think of the joy that exudes from Pope Francis. Those things pull at us like a magnet.

We notice these things. Something deep within us recognizes truth and beauty. That same “something" hungers for what is right and good. We may even think about them––their significance and why such things are important to us. Yet how often do see a connection to holiness?

The devil twists the image we have of holiness. We too easily see it as unattainable. We think holiness will limit our happiness; we assume that being holy puts us under too many restrictions. Holiness is simply entering into the fullness of life as God created it to be. Holiness is believing that whatever is not holy is not truly good.

So much of what we spend our time, energy, and money on in order to find meaning and happiness leaves us unsatisfied and searching for “more”. St Paul exhorts the Philippians to direct their thoughts to all that is true, all that deserves respect, all that is honest, pure, admirable, decent, virtuous, or worthy of praise (4:8). St Augustine reflected:

Show me one who is full of longing, one who is hungry, one who is a pilgrim and suffering from thirst in the desert of this world…. and he knows what I mean.
….What does the soul desire more than truth? Why then does the soul have hungry jaws, a spiritual palate as it were, sensitive enough to judge the truth, if not in order to eat and drink wisdom, justice, truth, eternal life?
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness… (St Augustine)

We need to learn to listen to our deepest hungers. Perhaps the most basic principle of the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola is that of “discerning spirits”. There are “spirits”––thoughts and feelings––that can move us toward God or pull us away from God. Sometimes a feeling can seem initially good but then prove to lead to a bad place. Likewise, something can seem unpleasant at first, but actually lead to deep satisfaction.

Every day we face a most important question. Is Christian Faith really true? If we say “yes” then we can expect two things to happen. We can expect God to be at work in our lives, calling us to know him, to trust him, to obey him. We can also expect to fight a spiritual war. There are other voices that want to distract us. We live in a broken world that can discourage us. There are spirits that want to destroy us. Each day we have a fresh decision to make: What voice will I listen to?

The deepest desires of our heart are true holiness––for a life marked by God’s truth and beauty and love. St Augustine captured it: You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you. Our hunger for God is a hunger to be holy. If we can recognize that we may stumble, but our direction will be set.

Then we can pray with the psalmist: Of you my heart has spoken: “Seek his face.” It is your face, O Lord, that I seek (Psa 27). And we trust the words of our Lord: Seek and you shall find (Matt 7:7). It is as easy as following the deepest desire of our heart.

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