“Is thy heart right as my heart is with thy heart?”—4 Kings. X, 15.
Centuries have passed since our Lord and Saviour, the loving Jesus, in His visible presence, walked the earth; and as the years roll on, He asks of every Catholic soul the same question which He put to the prince of the Apostles: “Lovest thou Me?” and every one should reply as did the ardent Peter” “Yes, Lord, I love Thee;” and yet the answer is not the same, for St. Peter not only assured the Lord of his love, but added: “Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee.”
If our divine Lord possessed not only the power to read what is written in the inmost recesses of our hearts, He might be deceived by the assurance of a love which has no place therein, and indiscriminately bestow those rich treasures of grace which He loves so well to give, and which we require to work out our salvation in that state of life to which we have each one been assigned. But the Lord searcheth the heart of man, and knoweth if his lips speak truth. And too often, my dearest Christians, the lives, even of those who possess the gift of faith, so directly contradict their professions, that to them might be applied the words of Isaac: “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are those of Esau.”
The lips say: “I love my Jesus who died for me,” but as “actions speak louder than words,” they often proclaim the falsity of the assertion. We can not sufficiently appreciate the necessity of examining ourselves carefully on this point, and it were well to do so in the presence of the Sacred Heart, as it beats in our midst, in the Most Holy Sacrament. What answer could we make to this question of our Lord? Could we truly say with St. Peter: “Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I have Thee.” Beloved in Christ, in this regard I will put into the mouth of our Saviour those words of Holy Scripture.
“Is they heart right as my heart is with thy heart?” and after you have listened attentively to my words today, let each one make answer to his soul and his God.
The first mark of a sincere love is the silent testimony of the heart itself, which is felt only by those who love. The little child, which never even heard the word love, feels it in the depths of his tender heart toward its mother, who lavishes upon it every fond department as it lovingly clings around her neck.
Question your own heart as to its feelings whenever the pronounced the sacred name of Jesus, or even think of Him.
St. Bernard sometimes, after he had stuttered that holy name, tasted a sweetness upon his lips as though he had eaten honey. Can you say, O Christian! that your feelings are like his? Is it with you, as St. Augustine declares of himself, that you find every thing, wherein the name of Jesus does not occur, insipid and without interest? You love Jesus, you see, but if His name leaves you insensible and cold, I am forced to doubt the sincerely of your love.
But as it is also true that mere feeling is very deceptive, therefore show, by your life, that you really speak the truth.
The second mark of sincere love is the care one takes not to grieve or offend the object of his love. Thus it may happen that wife says to her husband: “Do you love me?” and what is his probable reply? “Silly question; would I have married you had I not?” But evening comes, and the charms of home are powerless to keep him there. So he goes to the tavern, where the midnight hour finds him still, yet he knows how much he will grieve his faithful wife by this evil course. Is she not perfectly right, therefore, if she says within herself: “Thy lips say I love thee; but thy life says it is a lie. Thy love is not sincere, or thou wouldst not be so ready to grieve my heart."
Christian, your Saviour asks: “Do you love Me?” How does your life answer this question of the Lord? With what care do you endeavor, not only to not commit a mortal sin, which would at once banish Christ from your heart; but to avoid committing even one deliberate venial sin which grives and afflicts your Lord?
Do you watch over your conscience by the most assiduous practice of the particular examen? If so, then, indeed, you speak the truth. But if it would seem that you are careless in regard to the trifling sins and imperfections,—if you neglect the particular examen, you place yourself in the greatest danger of sinning, even grievously, and your lips would utter a lie: you love is only an illusion.
Even if you would read from your book, the most ardent affections of love, while your lips say: “Yes, Lord Jesus, I love You;” your life cries out: “It is false.” But how is it, then, if you live witih the guilt of mortal sin on your soul? Ah! then, indeed, you deeply grieve your Saviour, and banish Him from your heart.
The third mark of sincere love is he desire to please the beloved, and to do with zeal what is required of us by the one whom we love. A well known proverb says that “love can read in the eyes of the beloved the desire of his heart.” The same is true of sincere love towards Jesus. A wife need not to ask her husband whether he loves her, although he is of a very undemonstrative nature,—never expressing his love,—if his actions show that he does, if he is quick to anticipate every wish of her heart, and fulfill it, if possible; therein lies the real test of love. The same is true of the sincerity of our love towards Jesus. What he requires of us is made known by His admonition: “Follow Me!—be ye holy, as your Father in heaven is holy.” As your heart, with what zeal you walk in the path of Christian perfection, whether it is your earnest wish to become holy.
And not only that, but what zeal do you manifest in assisting Jesus to extend His kingdom on earth, through zeal in the exercise of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy? With what solicitude do you endeavor to prevent others from offending God, particularly those whom the Lord has confided to your care, watching that they fulfill their duties as faithful and zealous children of the Church?
Do you try earnest to lead infidels and heretics to the way of salvation, and the knowledge of the true and only Church wherein salvation is to be found; and to support over the whole earth the kingdom of God, that zealous missionaries may be enabled to preach the gospel among heathens? Can you say with truth that you are zealous in each of the above duties? If so, then you may indeed rejoice, for it is well with you; and your life replete with holy deeds shows that you sincerely love your God. But, on the other contrary—and oh, with how many it is not the case!—if you are satisfied to live an ordinary Christian life, and even this merely from force of habit; if you do not resolve to let your aim be to grow always better and better; to constantly multiply the good works you perform, to never lose your aim be to grow always better and better; to constantly multiply the good works you perform, to never lose and opportunity to save and sanctify others; if, I repeat, beloved in Christ, it is thus with you, then your love for Jesus is far being sincere.
And if you are content to be solicitous only for your own immediate family or your own parish Church, as far as necessity requires; and even if you show yourself an active parish child, yet neglect every thig in regard to caring for the salvation of souls, as if it were a duty belonging only to priests, then the sincerity of your love towards Jesus is rather self-deception.
Whosoever loves Jesus sincerely provides for the salvation of souls, even though he be not a Paul nor a Priest, remembering the admonition of the disciple of love. “As He has shed His blood for us, so we should be ready to shed ours for each soul.”
The fourth mark of sincere love is that magnanimity and fidelity which leads us to make sacrifices, even if we should have to suffer by assisting others.
Behold a married couple blessed with the goods of this world, with health and happiness, because prosperity has smiled upon their lives. You ask me whether they love one another, and to what degree? A question difficult to answer, while they continue to lead such a delightful life. On the contrary, suppose a youth and maiden to enter the married life with every prospect of health and happiness, and behold! after a few months, the hand of the Lord is laid heavily upon her, and He calls her to pass under His chastening rod. The wife becomes incurably ill, the husband loses his entire wealth, yet their love remains the same; yes, its flame burns more brightly than before. Ah, yes! they love each other truly.
You say: “Yes, I love Jesus;” show it by your love for the cross, by your patience, if the Lord imposes His chastening rod upon you. If then your affections of love multiply towards Jesus, and you esteem yourself happy that He has drawn you to Himself by the royal way of he cross, we know that you have a sincere love towards Him.
And what in all this world so effectively conduces to this condition of sincere love, as one glance at the most Sacred Heart of Jesus and an assiduous cultivation of that beautiful devotion; for that Heart shed the last drop of blood for you on the cross, in sincere love. You have this Sacred Heart present in the Blessed Sacrament. Go then before the tabernacle, and think of Him who nourishes you so often with the Holy Sacrament, and gives it to you as food.
The better to illustrate this I will relate the following event: It happened that a ship was lost at sea, and those of the passengers who escaped the wreck were cast upon a desert island. Among them was a mother with a nursing infant. However, the joy of the passengers at their rescue was of brief duration, for they discovered that the soil was bleak and barren, and afforded no food whatever. And no vessel appeared to bear them away, the mother sat holding the starving child to her breast, form which it had drawn the very last drop of milk.
The mother had no nutriment, how could she nourish it? It drew with such force that it took from her veins the life blood, yet she uttered no word of complaint.
The mother becoming weaker and weaker, the passengers entreated her to let the child die and, perhaps, her own life might be saved. But she was deaf to their prayers, and still allowed the babe to drink her blood; yes, to the very last moment of her life, which was indeed at hand, for her head drooped upon that faithful breast; and when the wrecked passengers, that they might be rescued, were heard and a vessel came in sight, she was dead. The child lived and grew to man’s estate, and when the youth heard what his mother had done for him, and how she had nourished him with her blood, the heroic act filled his heart with such an ardent love for her, that from the very depths of his yearning heart he often cried: “O mother! mother! could I but once behold you if for one moment only to thankyou for your devoted maternal live. Oh, how happy would I not feel!”
Christians, what that mother did, the Sacred Heart of Jesus is doing daily in the Most Holy Sacrament, and has done it for nineteen hundred years, by nourishing us with His precious blood. As children of God, as members of the Church, we can thank Him for it personally. Oh, then, make good use of His Presence on your altars, particularly by frequent and worthy Communions.
No doubt that will enkindle and nourish in your hearts the fire of divine love, as nothing else could in the world; and you will find your dearest joy in cherishing a sincere, ardent and faithful love towards the Sacred Heart of Jesus.—Amen! (Father Francis X. Weninger, S.J., Original, Short and Practical Sermons for Every Feast of the Liturgical Year: Three Sermons for Every Feast, published originally by C. J. H. Lowen, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1882, pp. 485-492.)