To love God also with the heart

Give me, my son, your heart and set your eyes on my ways.

In commenting on the precept of loving God with the whole heart, St. Thomas teaches that the principle of love is twofold, for one can love both with feeling and with what reason tells us. With sentiment, when man does not know how to live without that which he loves. By the dictate of reason, when he loves what the understanding tells him. And we must love God in both ways: also with our human heart, with the affection with which we love the creatures of the earth, with the only heart we have. The heart, affectivity, is an integral part of our being. "Being human beings," comments St. John Chrysostom against the Manichean sect, which considered human feelings essentially evil, "it is not possible to be completely devoid of emotions; we can dominate them, but we cannot live without them. Moreover, passion can be profitable, if we know how to use it when it is necessary". Human and supernatural is the love that we contemplate in Jesus Christ when we read the Gospel: full of warmth, of vibration, of tenderness...; when he addresses his heavenly Father and when he is with men: he is moved before a widowed mother who has lost her only son, weeps for a friend who has died, misses the gratitude of some lepers who had been cured of their illness, shows himself always cordial, open to all, even in the terrible and sublime moments of the Passion.... We, who long to follow Christ closely, to be truly his disciples, must remember that the Christian life does not consist "in thinking much, but in loving much".

In our emotions and feelings we often experience our destitution, our need for help, protection, affection, happiness.... And these feelings, sometimes very deep, can and should be a channel to seek God, to tell Him that we love Him, that we need His help, to stay close to Him. If our conduct were only the fruit of rational and cold choices, or if we tried to ignore the affective side of our being, we would not live integrally as God wants, and in the long run it would be possible that we would not even love Him in any way. God made us with body and soul, and with our whole being - heart, mind, strength - Jesus Master tells us that we must love him.

It may happen that at times we find ourselves cold and listless, as if our heart had gone numb, for feelings come and go in sometimes unpredictable ways. We cannot then be content to follow the Lord reluctantly, like someone who fulfills an onerous obligation or takes a bitter medicine. It is necessary then to put in place the means to get out of this state, in case instead of being a passive purification, which the Lord can allow, it is only lukewarmness, lack of true love. We must love God with a firm will, and whenever possible with the noble sentiments of the heart; with the help of the Lord, most of the time it will be possible to awaken the affections, to rekindle the heart, even if an interior resonance of pleasure is lacking.

At other times, God treats us like an affectionate mother who, without the child expecting it, rewards him by giving him a sweet or, simply, gives it to him because she wants to have a special manifestation of affection with the little one. And he, who has always loved his mother, goes crazy with joy and even volunteers for whatever is necessary, in his eagerness to show his gratitude. But that son will reject any thought that would lead him to consider that his mother does not love him when she does not give him treats, and, if he has any sense, he will know how to see his mother's love even after a correction or when he has to take him to the doctor. So do we with our Father God, who loves us much more. In these times we should take advantage of these more sensitive consolations to draw closer to the Lord, to correspond with more generosity in the daily struggle, even though we know that the essence of love is not in the feelings.