Echoes of the Word 30th October 2016
“Happy the Pure in Heart” This Beatitude can serve as a basis for all the others, because if we are pure in heart we will also be poor in spirit, merciful and so on. But what does ‘purity’ mean here? Sexual purity is only part of it. A truly pure heart is one which wants God only, refuses to be side tracked, and cuts through obstacles like a laser-beam. Monastic discipline helps to achieve this focus, but laypeople can achieve it too.
Like all the Beatitudes, this one has a promise attached to it. The pure in heart, it says, ’will see God.’ But when? Surely only in the next life? Jesus doesn’t say that. And we humans have a faculty of spiritual perception, sometimes called ‘the eye of the heart,’ which, when purified, can ‘see God,’ that is, it can become, at times, even in this life, powerfully aware of Him as real and present. How deep and lasting this perception is depends on how pure we are. And there’s a possibility here of living at a level beyond what most people can even dream of. This is the life of the saints.
When we think of saints it’s very easy to be daunted: heroic martyrs, great preachers, men and women of deep faith, piety and virtue. There’s no way we can live up to such as these. Yet they are our brothers and sisters. By our baptism we are called into communion with them and to be like them.
Perhaps the best help in overcoming our feelings of inadequacy I discovered came in a homily once preached by the late Fr Simon Trafford to the children of St Martin’s, Ampleforth whilst I was working there. He spoke most movingly of the one saint to whom he always prayed: his mother! She may never be formally acknowledged as a saint by the Church, but as a mother she always loved and cared for him as he grew up. Why should she stop now that she had gone to her heavenly reward?
If we can begin to think of saints in this way, then we can start to truly see them as our brothers and sisters in the faith and ourselves as able to be like them.
One last point. As one who enjoys cooking I always see the gospel of the feast (The Beatitudes) as the recipe which can lead me to sanctity.
Fr Kentigern Hagan OSB