This reflection was given during the daily Eucharist in the chapel of an Anglican convent. The Scripture it references is Mark 12:28-34.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart.”
Our gospel this afternoon puts that before us as the most fundamental part of the Christian life – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and soul, and mind, and strength.
But what does it mean to love the Lord your God with all your heart?
I suspect that for many people, they take this to mean that our whole heart must be full and overflowing with warm fuzzy feelings about God. That we should come to God overwhelmed with joy, and perfectly at peace with ourselves and our situation in life. And that anything other than this, then, is a falling short of the gold standard of loving God with all your heart.
But it is not really very human to be in that kind of emotional state very often, or with very much consistency. Bodily creatures that we are, our emotions are influenced by everything from whether we’ve had enough sleep to whether we’re grieving the loss of a dearly loved person; and the command to love God doesn’t make that emotional variation disappear. I put it to you that a saint is not an emotional broken record of happiness.
What I’d suggest to you, though, is that something else might be a more human way to love the Lord with all your heart. And that is that when you are exhausted, grieving, angry, jealous, or whatever other emotion it is that you’re experiencing… that you bring it to God in love. God is big enough to hear all of our sorrows and hold us through them. God is resilient enough to take in anything we will entrust to Him. God is loving enough to have compassion on anything which we will open to Him.
Maybe loving God with all your heart means letting a loving God hear your anger, trusting that when the anger has passed – as it always does – God will still be there. Maybe it means letting a loving God see our vulnerability and brokenness, trusting that even when we feel pathetic, God will not despise us. Maybe it doesn’t mean trying to present a perfect emotional state, but to present whatever emotional state we’re in, completely, with the unselfconsciousness and simplicity of a baby clinging to her mother.
And – Paul says later in one of his letters – the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts in Christ Jesus. We love God with our whole hearts, and in turn He protects what we entrust to Him.
There is a challenge to us, in this. But I hope it is a challenge in which you may be deeply blessed.