We were sitting out on our backyard patio at our farm. The stars filled the night sky, prompting my brother-in-law and I to contemplate the sheer size of the universe. Our township in Central Jersey may have been in the middle of everything, but somehow it was also in the middle of nowhere; so the stars were surprisingly bright in our part of the state. 

We started talking about why we, as human beings, even bother to ponder the size of the universe, and we concluded that it must be because that’s the way God made us.  

But still, why? Other animals seem to get by just fine without wondering about the mysteries we just can’t seem to solve. The universe is big, 93 billion light years big, and that’s just how far we can observe.  

“And yet, our hearts are larger than the universe,” my brother-in-law said, “And they’re much closer to us.”  

Then it dawned on me. The great mystery of our existence is not so much the vastness of the universe we live within, but the depths of our hearts within us. It seems like the human race has been looking up at the stars hoping to discover something magnificent since the dawn of time. The greatest frontiers that have not been explored, however, are the depths of our hearts and imaginations. 

The image of God is written on our hearts. It’s that skip of a heartbeat when something true, good, or beautiful resonates deeply with you. It’s the ache in your chest when you experience a tragedy or loss. It’s not an abstract concept. In fact, it’s closer to us than anything else.  

If there’s any doubt regarding the importance God places on the heart, we need only look at the prominence God gives to the heart in Scripture: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart” (Deuteronomy 6:4-6). 

Throughout the whole Bible God seems to be desiring nothing more than our hearts. In fact, he uses the word almost 1,000 times.  

 And God is not just the God of the Old Testament, or of the New for that matter. He is also the God of the present, and he is still pursuing our hearts to this day. He conveyed this to his Church, so naturally the Catechism also drives home the heart's importance: 

The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live … the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others …  The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant. (CCC 2563) 

Perhaps this is why the Church has been a champion in protecting our personal consciences, because the conscience is quite synonymous with the heart, being the “place of decision”. 

To be clear, this does not give me license to do whatever I want under the personal edict that I am “following my heart.” Rather, the way God speaks to the heart always aligns with good counsel and his Word in Scripture. 

Scripture guides us in understanding our hearts. In God’s Word, we read about how the tug of the heart just wouldn’t leave the prophets alone, as with Jonah and Jeremiah. Far from being a validation of my desires, the heart’s tug often urges me to do the very thing I dread the most. It is what led saints to lead lives of unconditional devotion to God, and what led many to martyrdom.  

We may look up at the sky and ponder the vastness of the universe, but if you ask me the greatest wonder is the human heart that is vast enough to hold a love that is willing to give up everything for its beloved. 

David Kilby is a freelance writer for The Monitor. He attends St. Mary Parish, Barnegat.  He can be reached at kilbyfreelancer@gmail.com.