Madonna House

Tear Open My Heart and Come Through!

by Fr. Bob Wild

All during Advent we’re going to sing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel!” Desiring Christ’s coming, begging him to come, sharing in his own longing to come to us: this is what Advent is all about. But did you know that besides desiring Christ’s coming, we also have within us the power to affect that coming both in our own hearts and in the world?

Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone opens, I will come in (Rev 3:20). This means we have the power to open that door. It means we have the power to allow God an opening through which to manifest more fully his presence in the world.

There are, then, two things: the immensity of God’s longing to come to us and our freedom to allow him to come. Then why doesn’t he come?

He doesn’t come as completely as he would like because he’s blocked by our freedom. Human hearts are the doors, through which God’s presence comes. He can’t come fully because we hold the keys to these entrances and we will not open to him.

Our prayer cannot simply be, “O God, tear open the heavens and come down!” He has already torn open the heavens. What he is powerless to tear open is our hearts.

So we need to pray: “Tear open my heart and come through!”

How much do we want God to come into the world? We pray for an end to war, to the culture of death, and to other evils, and that, of course, is good. But do we pray for an end to the war in our own hearts?

Do we, just to give one example, pray and take some practical steps to end the fighting between ourselves and the people with whom we live and work and who live next door?

Do I want God to come into the world enough to desire him to come first into the warring in my own heart? Yes, Lord, rend the heavens and come down, but most of all, “tear apart my own heart and come through me!”

Our own heart is the only reality in the whole universe we have any control over. We can give talks and write books. We can pray that other people change. We can participate in demonstrations to express our views. We can write letters to leaders. These are all good things.

But the effectiveness of such actions is out of our control. What is in our power and what is absolutely sure of hastening the coming of God is the opening of our own hearts.

The saints understood this very well. I suppose they, too, tried for a while to change structures and people. But eventually they understood that if God was ever to do anything concretely, they would have to let him do it through them.

From that time forward, they put all the emphasis on themselves. They said to God, “I don’t care what it costs, but come through me into your world.”

God answered their prayer, and that’s why their lives are the real history of the world, the history of the eruption of the kingdom into the world. All other eruptions simply compound the problems.

This is the challenge of Advent: to let God truly enter into my heart.

Let me share with you the following prayer.

Oh, yes, Jesus, come and destroy the idols in the world which people worship instead of you: power, pleasure, money.

But destroy them first in my own heart. Demolish them despite my reluctance and half-heartedness.

Yes, come and dispel the darkness in the world, but shatter it first of all in my own heart. Cure me of my warped love for the darkness and my fear of the light.

Humble the pride of the world which seeks to find life without you; but, oh, first, Lord, humble my own heart. Make me stop seeking life everywhere except in you. Humble me most of all, before anyone else.

Yes, manifest yourself to the world which needs you so much. I want this so badly that I give you full sway, first of all, in my life.”

Excerpted and adapted from Desert Harvest, Living Flame Press, (1985), pp. 40-42, out of print