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November 1999

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God (Matt. 5:8)

On a hillside near Lake Tiberius, not far from Capernaum, Jesus began his preaching with the ‘Sermon on the Mount’. In keeping with the tradition of teachers at that time, he first sat down in front of the crowds and then began to speak. He explained what it meant to be ‘blessed’ - a word used throughout the Old Testament to describe the exaltation of someone who, in any of a wide variety of ways, fulfils the Word of the Lord.

In some ways the beatitudes proclaimed by Jesus would already have been familiar to the disciples. The Psalmist had written that the pure of heart would ascend the mountain of the Lord (Ps. 24:4), but now, for the first time, they heard that they would even be able to see God.

What kind of purity could be so sublime as to deserve so much? Jesus was to explain it several times during the course of his preaching, so let's try to follow him and reach the source of true purity.

Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.

Jesus identifies one supreme means of purification. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. (John 15:3). In other words, it is His word, more than the practice of religious rites, which purifies our inner self. The words of Jesus are not ordinary human words. Jesus is actually present in His word, just as He is present, albeit in a different way, in the Eucharist. Through his word Jesus can actually enter into us. If we allow him to act he frees us from sin and purifies our hearts.

Purity is the fruit produced when we live all the words of Jesus that free us from ‘attachments’, into which we might otherwise fall if our hearts are not in God and in his teachings. They might be attachments to things, to people, or to ourselves. But if our heart is focused on God alone, everything else falls away. To help us succeed in doing this, it can be helpful during the day to say to God, You, Lord, are my only good! (Cf. Psalm 16:2). Let's try to say it often, especially when various attachments threaten to pull our heart towards those images, feelings and passions that threaten our freedom by blurring our vision of what is good.

If we are tempted to look at certain types of posters and television programmes, let's stop and say to him, "You, Lord are my only good". This first step will take us beyond ourselves because we are re-declaring our love for God. This is how to grow in purity.

Sometimes we might realise that someone, or something we do, has become an obstacle between God and ourselves, spoiling our relationship with him. This is the moment to say to him: "You Lord, are my only good". It will help us to purify our intentions and regain our inner freedom.

Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.

Living the word purifies us and sets us free because the word is love. The fire of divine love purifies our intentions and the whole of our inner self, because, according to the Bible, our ‘heart’ is the deepest seat of our intelligence and our will.

Jesus commanded us to practise a particular type of love because it enables us to live this beatitude. Mutual love means being ready to follow Jesus’ example and give our life for others. It creates a current, an exchange, and an atmosphere that is characterised by transparency and purity, because God is present, and He alone can create a pure heart in us. (Cf. Psalm 50:12). If we live mutual love, the Word acts to bring purity and sanctity. As isolated individuals we are unable to resist the world's temptations for long, but with mutual love there is a healthy environment which can protect our purity and all other aspects of a true Christian life.

Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.

By constantly re-acquiring this purity we are made able to 'see' God. In other words, we can understand his work in our lives and in history. We can hear his voice in our hearts, and recognise him wherever he is, in the poor, in the Eucharist, in his Word, in our communion with others, or in the Church. Already in this life we are given a foretaste of the presence of God, 'walk by faith, not by sight' (2 Cor. 5:7), until the time comes when, 'we shall see face to face' (1 Cor 13:12) for eternity.

Chiara Lubich

 

 

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