“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart.”
In order to attain to loving God with all our heart, we must separate it from everything which is not of God – which does not tend towards God. He chooses to be alone in the possession of our hearts, and with reason, because He is our only Lord, the One who has given us everything. Still further, He is our only Lover, who has loved us, not for His own interest, but solely from His goodness. And because He thus exceedingly loves us, He desires that in return we should love Him with all our hearts.
To love God with our whole heart implies two things: the first is to drive from it every affection which is not for God, or not according to the will of God. “If I knew,” said St. Francis de Sales, “that I had one fiber in my heart which did not belong to God, I would instantly tear it out.”
The second is prayer, by which holy love introduces itself into the heart. But if the heart does not fly from the earth, love cannot enter, for it finds no place for itself. On the other hand, a heart detached from creatures instantly becomes inflamed and increases in divine love at every breathing of grace.
“Pure love,” said the same holy bishop, “consumes everything which is not God, in order to change it into itself, because everything which is done for God is the love of God.” Oh how God is full of goodness and liberality to those souls who seek nothing but Him and His will! Happy is he who, living still in the world, can truthfully say with St. Francis, “My God and my all” and thus can hold in contempt all the vanities of the world!” “I have despised the kingdom of the world and all the glory of this life for the love of Jesus Christ my Lord.”
To attain to perfect love, we must deny ourselves, above all, embracing that which is distasteful to self-love and rejecting that which self-love demands. A certain medicine is disagreeable because it is bitter. It is unpleasant to us to do good to a certain person who has been ungrateful to us; we must by all means do him good, for the very reason that he has been ungrateful.
Further, St. Francis de Sales has said that we must love even virtues with a detachment of heart; for example, we ought to love meditation and retirement, but when they are forbidden to us, through the calls of obedience or of charity, we must leave both the one and the other without being disquieted. And thus it is necessary to embrace with equanimity everything which happens to us through the will of God. Happy is he who wishes to have, or refuses to have whatever happens without inclining to either side, because God wishes it or refuses it. And therefore we must beseech the Lord to enable us to find peace in everything which He appoints for us.
This article is taken from a chapter in The Soul Sanctified: Catholic Wisdom on the Way of Salvation which is available from TAN Books.