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Today’s gospel says a lot about what we would hear if we listen to our hearts and if we listen to God’s heart.

 We know the heart is more than a physical organ. “Heart” means the core of ourselves in all our aspects. We talk about the human heart as the seat of loving, compassion, tenderness, and courage. Our language knows this:  to know something by heart is to know it perfectly.  To seek with your whole heart is to pursue, search for diligently, strive for something with all the perseverance you can muster.

Jesus is sitting with his disciples, teaching them what it means to follow in the path he would have them walk. Jesus is giving words to the love of God’s heart. We hear a section of the Sermon on the Mount, a section that began  “ Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets.,” and “ For I tell you, if your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”  What follows in today’s Gospel are the illustrations and implications of those statements.

 Jesus lists some of the big commandments: You shall not kill, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not swear falsely. The disciples would say, we’ve heard that before. We know that’s what God wants for us. But then Jesus goes  on explaining what they mean in their fullness – by going to the heart of the matter. He explains what they mean if we are to love as God loves, because the law tells us what is in God’s heart. Law exposes God’s desires of how we would live with one another. Law also exposes the difference between our hearts and God’s heart.

God listens to our hearts and knows that even if we can keep the commandment not to kill one another, we still hate and despise others.  God listens to our hearts and knows that even if we can keep a commandment not to commit adultery, we still can disrespect others by treating them as less than fully human.

God listens to our hearts and knows that even if we can keep from swearing falsely, we are still willing to manipulate others with our words, to lead others astray by what we say, to let our words be meaningless rather than let our yes mean yes and our no mean no.

Our hearts, though we are made in the image of God, do not keep time with the beating of God’s heart.  And so, in God’s mercy, in the teaching of Jesus,  God would have us love in a way that respects the dignity of every human being.

And here again the law shows us God’s love, by showing us our failing and driving us into the arms of our merciful God. St. Augustine put it this way: “The law was given for this purpose: to make you, being great, little; to show that you do not have in yourself the strength to attain righteousness, and for you, thus helpless, unworthy, and destitute, to flee to grace.” The grace of God is there, offered for us. We need only take it.

Does all this talk of law and our failing to keep it bring you sadness?  John Donne in a sermon, said once in a sermon  it is a holy sadness, because a sense of our sin is “God’s key to the door of his mercy, put into thy hand.” God’s heart is a rich treasure house of mercy to which our sense of sin is the key.

Discovering our failure to love as God loves is not then a cause for despair, it is a call back to God, into the arms of God, who loves and strengthens us, and sends us out to love again; bids us love more fully, more perfectly, because although showing perfect love is impossible for us, nothing is impossible with God.

The sound of our hearts and the sound of God’s heart are different now, so, we are given law, that we might know more completely how to love, and when we fail – because we do fail – we are given the key to God’s heart, the key to the vast treasure of God’s mercy that stands ready for us to take. The key to a heart that offers us true pleasure, true love.

Take heart. Because our God is a God of love. Our God is love. In that we can be sure.


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