August 23, 2013


Jesus is what we long for, the joy of our desiring

“Be careful what you wish for” is a saying we’ve all heard before. It reminds us that our desires can get us into trouble—sometimes serious trouble.

That’s why parents—with the help of teachers, coaches and other adults—have an obligation to discipline their children. If we don’t learn at an early age to temper our desires, they can overwhelm us and lead us into real trouble.

Pope Francis recently spoke about the need to channel our desires appropriately.

“All of us have a desire,” the pope said during a recent Angelus address. “Pity the person who doesn’t have a desire. Desire moves us forward, toward the horizon, and for us Christians that horizon is an encounter with Jesus, who is our life, our joy, our happiness.”

Addressing thousands of pilgrims, the pope asked them to think about what Jesus said to his disciples: “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Lk 12:34).

“Do you have a heart that desires or a closed heart, a sleeping heart, an anesthetized heart?” the pope asked. “And what, for you, is the most important, most precious thing, that which attracts your heart like a magnet?”

According to the Holy Father, most people would respond “my family,” but the pope asks, “What is it that binds families together? Love.”

Without love, families don’t survive. Without God, the source of all real love, the things that we desire—even good and important things like health, food and shelter, work and family—can leave us feeling empty, alone and unhappy.

Pope Francis told the crowd that God’s love gives meaning to all the daily tasks in a Christian’s life, and it is what helps people face trials.

“To move forward in life with love, with that love that the Lord has sown in our hearts, with the love of God—that is a true treasure,” he said.

Of course, we have to be careful when we say that love is what we desire, the ultimate source of our happiness and joy. “Love” is a much-abused concept. It means different things to different people, and even genuine love can be distorted by selfishness and sin.

That’s why Pope Francis points to Jesus as love incarnate, love in the flesh. Not only is Jesus the best example for us of how to live lovingly, he is also the source of all love whose grace makes it possible for us to overcome temptation and choose what is good.

Our faith tells us improper desires leading to wrong choices were the cause of all our human problems. This was the original sin. Adam and Eve, our first parents, wanted to be like God—a foolish and unhealthy desire. To fulfill this fatal wish, they disobeyed God’s law and suffered terrible consequences as a result of their freely chosen actions.

All of us, the descendants of Adam and Eve, repeat this original sin in our own ways. But thanks to God’s intervention, we have been freed from the curse of our distorted desiring. We have been shown the way out, the way to right desiring and good choices.

What is this way? It is the way of the cross, the ultimate expression of self-sacrificing love. We believe that Jesus himself is the way. He is—or should be—the object of all our desiring and the model for all our choices and life decisions.

Jesus was tempted the same way we are. After fasting 40 days in the desert, his desires were what any human person’s would be. He wanted food; he wanted comfort and security; and above all he wanted to know that he would be successful in carrying out his divine mission. But Jesus did not allow the devil to persuade him to lose focus on his ultimate, most important, desire—to do the will of his Father by sacrificing his own wants and desires to the greater good, which was our salvation.

We all have desires, and that’s a good thing, Pope Francis tells us. Our desires move us forward in fulfillment of our mission (or calling) from God to be lovers in his own image and likeness.

What’s most important to us? Love should be our answer, but is it self-love or the love of Jesus? We need to ask ourselves these questions regularly. Otherwise, we risk losing our way and getting into big trouble.

Jesus, joy of our desiring, help us want what is good. Through the power of your grace, may we make right choices, and so place all our treasure—our heart’s desire—in you.

—Daniel Conway

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