“You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart.
Notice that Christ says: Your whole heart.
He doesn’t say: Leave a corner of your heart for yourself.
He bought the whole of you by giving his whole self for you,
that he alone might possess every part of you.
Do not try to hold back any part of yourself…
If you really wish to have the whole,
then give it all to him, and he will give you all of himself.”
–Saint Anthony of Padua
On pilgrimages to the Holy Land, pilgrims will often take notice of Orthodox Jewish men putting on his “tefillin” or “phylacteries,” leather bands with small cases containing Scripture quotes. One of those passages is quoted by Saint Anthony today: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart.”
This phrase is part of the Shema, the command from Scripture which forms a daily prayer for Jews. Physically wearing these words of God reminded the believer of one’s total commitment to God—at least during the time of prayer.
It’s not easy to make that whole-hearted gift of self to God. Our ego constantly clings to ideas, wishes, opinions, needs—all of which reinforce our firm hold on that part of our self which we are loathe to surrender. We live in the illusion that letting go will somehow diminish us, make us vulnerable, open us to despair.
But it is precisely in letting go all those parts of ourselves that we discover what Jesus meant when he spoke of “dying to self.” Only then—with God’s help—do we discover how God gives us all that we need.