The corruption of the flesh weighing upon us so heavily during our earthly sojourn, we often find ourselves desiring what is base and wicked. But our wills can be motivated to love what is truly good, and therefore to desire what is right and just. Desire and joy are related as motion and rest says St. Thomas. We desire a loved good and move toward it; having attained it, we rejoice. St. Augustine said that the quality of the man is determined by the quality of his loves. The infused theological virtue of charity is a supernatural habit that “aligns” all our loves, directing and informing them, so that our intellects, wills, and even our emotions, might love those true goods that ought to be loved. Loving them, we will desire them; achieving them, we will enjoy them.
God himself praised Daniel the Prophet as a “man of desires.” All men desire what they perceive to be a good. Daniel’s goods were true goods, goods that were just and holy.
In the intimacy of the Apostolic college, Our Lord spoke of His own personal desires. St. Luke begins his narrative of the Last Supper with Jesus’ words, “With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you, before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). He desired with desire because this was the grand moment of the institution of the Holy Eucharist, when he would make the Apostles, through Holy Communion, concorporeal with Himself. Earlier, that same evangelist related the desire of Our Lord to cast a fire on the earth, and even to undergo His Passion: “I am come to cast fire on the earth; and what will I, but that it be kindled? And I have a baptism wherewith I am to be baptized: and how am I straitened until it be accomplished?” (12:49-50).
The Sacred Heart desires to save us, to feed us, to share Itself with us, by being pierced on the Cross and received in Holy Communion. The Introit for the Feast of the Sacred Heart, excerpting from Psalm 32, expresses the Man-God’s desire this way: “The thoughts of His Heart are to all generations: to deliver their souls from death and feed them in famine.”
And how pleased Jesus is when he finds His desires echoed in other hearts. I was reminded of this very recently, on the Sunday after the Ascension, the day of our May Procession. That day, IHM Chapel had the joy of witnessing a group of children receiving their first Holy Communion. Three little princes and two little princesses had been duly instructed, spiritually prepared, and fittingly adorned to meet their Eucharistic God. One little girl announced to her mother on the morning of the big day, “Mommy, I can’t wait. My soul is so hungry!”
One would think that the Sacred Heart Itself beat a little faster at that moment.
If we don’t have holy desires, they are within our reach, for we can pray for them. Yes, we can desire desires that are pleasing to God. The Church’s liturgical prayers provide worthy formulae for this. In light of the story I just told, the Postcommunion prayer from the fifth Sunday after Easter is particularly apt:
Grant us, O Lord, who have been nourished and strengthened at the heavenly table, both to desire that which is right, and to gain that which we desire.