March 26, 2011

What Draws God to the Human Heart?

Despite all the brokenness and misery that mark human existence, God is drawn to the human heart.  There is something about humanity that He patiently loves and profoundly respects.  He gently attempts to persuade us constantly but never imposes his omnipotence.  In the depths of our being, He knocks.  Ever confident that our indifference and rejection are not our last word, He awaits us.  If He humbly requests our hope, it is only because He hopes in us even more.  But why?  What draws Him?

It seems He knows, better than even we ourselves, the greatness of the human vocation.  To help us fulfill our great high calling, He pours out every spiritual blessing so that even our malice and hatred are taken up into his great plan for us.  And, this is true not only historically in the visible events through the course of time, but also mysteriously in the invisible recesses that run through the human heart.

To accomplish this, the almighty power of God clothed itself in weakness.  Vulnerable placing himself into our hands, He found a sure pathway into the depths of human poverty.  The closer He came, the greater we felt that primordial enmity.  The seed of distrust once sewn before the dawn of history had become a forest of ignorance in which we hid ourselves.  He continued with undaunted hope, ready to pay any price to restore our dignity so that we might be free to achieve the great purpose for which we were created.

Our supreme act of aggression against Him, when we tortured and crucified Him, He transforms into the means of all grace.  All we need is to repent, humble ourselves and accept his forgiveness - He gives us the power to live a transformed life, to do something beautiful for God, to make an offering of ourselves which is truly pleasing to Him.  Such is His divine plan, that we should, through following Christ in love, become the praise of his glory.

Elisabeth of the Trinity believes there is one person who did this in a singular way - someone who not only leaves us an example to follow but prays for us - that we might live so as to draw the Lord to us in new, unimaginable and beautiful ways.   Mary, the Mother of the Lord, is called in tradition "Faithful Virgin" and it is the faithfulness of the Virgin Mary which Elisabeth sees as dynamic.  She connects faithfulness to God in love with humility - the virtue by which we esteem ourselves rightly.  In our selfish and power obsessed culture, this connection for the spiritual life is even more relevant today.  Faithful and humble, Mary "drew down upon herself the delight of the Holy Trinity ...The Father bending down to this beautiful creature, who was so unaware of her own beauty, willed that she be the Mother in time of Him whose Father He is in eternity" (Heaven in Faith, 39).

These words about Mary contain a great truth for anyone who wants to serve the Lord.  Something about being faithful in our weakness is beautiful to God.  This is  the pathway to the cross, the threshold to union with Him.  It means to believe in love and to love, to not lose hope even in failure, but to strive, by God's grace, to rise again.  When we go on this pilgrimage of faith, we not only discover the the victory of good over evil in our own lives, but through our surrendered weakness and his indomitable hope in us, this triumph of love extends to the whole world.  


  1. Hey Dr. Lilles. I was just on and was surprised to see your article right at the top of the page. I love your message, and the language you used was beautiful. Thanks for writing!

    Stephen Telles

  2. It seems almost scandalous to say that God is drawn to the human heart. Like how could he be? But, of course, it is the truth. Though he doesn't need us in the least, he certainly wants us around. And, he does always try to bring us into closer union with himself. What a mystery that is!

    Thanks for the post!

  3. God does not need us but responds to our human emotion.Emotions and feelinmgs seem to be the language God recognizes.

  4. Marie -- you are right in a very important sense. God does hold our emotions in very high regard. It is also true that in an absolute sense, when we consider his inner life and the eternal beatitude that God has in Himself as Three Divine Persons - God does not need us to be happy. But in another sense, when we consider what He has revealed about Himself, He has permitted Himself to "need" us.

    Not that the Lord is diminished without us, by his Nature He cannot be (his inner life is one of absolute perfection). But when we consider the order of friendship love that He has chosen to have with humanity from all eternity, it is within this relational context that He allows Himself to need us.

    This is in the sense that He makes Himself vulnerable to us (in the divine economy). Also in the order of friendship we can understand the nature of petitionary prayer. He has chosen in his eternal plan only to give certain graces if we ask for them. For example, He will not save us unless we ask.

    To the extent that a certain part of his plan relies on humanity to be accomplished (like our own salvation), you could say that He "needs" us because He has chosen to. It is then in the order of grace and the divine economy that God relies on us and even hopes in us.

    Thank you for your excellent observation. This is not meant to correct it -- but to flesh out the dimensions of the problem you have raised.