XLT Holy Hour with young people
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
The Beatitudes are at the very heart of the teachings of Jesus. The Beatitudes are really the program of life of the Christian. They show us what it means to live in Christ, because the Beatitudes are really a kind of self-portrait of Jesus. When we live the Beatitudes, we are living like Jesus. A Christian is called to be a man or woman of the Beatitudes. That’s a good definition of a saint, a man or woman of the Beatitudes. The saints lived like Christ lived. They obeyed the commandments, which is very important, but they went deeper. They imitated Jesus along the path of love. Following Jesus as His disciples is more than the observance of the commandments. The Christian life is the way of the Beatitudes, the way of Jesus. We can’t understand the Beatitudes or live the Beatitudes except by following Jesus and opening our hearts to His grace.
These eight sayings all begin with the Greek word “Makarios” – “Blessed.” The Latin translation is Beatus (that’s where we get the word Beatitude, from the Latin Beatus). Beatus, Makarios, is translated into English as Blessed or Happy or Fortunate. So the Beatitudes show us the way to happiness, true happiness, the way to eternal life. They don’t follow the logic of this world which exalts power and riches. The Beatitudes sound a little crazy in the culture of this world. Happy and blessed to be poor, to be meek, to be persecuted? Sounds crazy. The logic of this world has us seeking pleasure, success, and possessions, thing that can easily become idols. They give us an illusory sense of satisfaction, but ultimately they leave us unsatisfied, even enslaved. To live the Beatitudes is to be a fool for Christ. To live the Beatitudes is to be a revolutionary, to swim against the tide. To live the Beatitudes, however, is the way to real happiness. When we live the Beatitudes we are saying no to what Pope Francis calls an ephemeral, superficial and throwaway culture.”
If I spoke tonight on the 8 Beatitudes, there would be no time left for prayer and adoration, so I am going to talk about just one of the 8 Beatitudes: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” Sometimes it’s translated as “clean of heart.” This Beatitude, like all the Beatitudes, contains a great promise. The promise to the pure of heart is that they will see God. Wow! We all long to see God, to be in the peace and glory of His presence.
Fundamentally, to be pure of heart means to be single-hearted. What does the Bible mean when it talks about the heart. In the Biblical meaning, the heart is the center of one’s inner life, the seat of our emotions, our intellect, and most especially our will. To be pure of heart is more than being morally pure and free of sin, though that’s obviously a significant part of being pure of heart. To be pure of heart means to be single-hearted, in other words, not to have a divided heart. In other words, we don’t serve two masters. Our life isn’t divided. Our soul has one focus. Now, of course, life has different facets. We have all kinds of things going on in our life – family, school, friends, and all kinds of activities. To be single-hearted, pure of heart, means that every facet of our life is ordered around one thing, actually one Person, Jesus Christ. The single-hearted life is a well-ordered life, not a scattered, haphazard life. Well, what puts our life in order? It’s centered on Christ. So when we make decisions in our life, we seek to discern what is the will of God. How does this or that decision lead me closer to Christ or does it lead me away from Him? When we are pure of heart, single-hearted, we recognize that our life is a journey, one journey with one destination. It’s a journey to life with Christ forever in heaven. So our life is organized, ordered toward this destiny. That’s our focus. It’s great to live life with this focus, with this purpose, to go to heaven. But what happens sometimes is our lives become scattered and confused, disordered. Our lives can become filled with a jumble of conflicting drives that hinder us from the true goal of life: to see God. That’s why Jesus teaches us: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”
Being pure of heart, being single-hearted, not only orders our life, but it also grants us freedom. Of course, in our culture many have an erroneous idea of freedom, thinking it means being able to do anything I please. This attitude about freedom leads to the kind of jumbled mess that many people experience. But the Christian notion of freedom is the capacity or ability to do what is right. As Jesus teaches us, it’s the truth that will set us free. It is doing good, doing what is right, that we experience true freedom. Sin enslaves us. Freely choosing to do evil makes us slaves. Freely choosing to do good liberates us. Now to be pure of heart, single-hearted, brings us freedom. Our life becomes simpler, not more confused or complicated. Our lives have a center, a focus, and that focus is Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. Think about how single-hearted Jesus was. What was His focus, His center? It was doing the will of His Father. He even said His food was to do the will of His Father. Jesus testified that He came to the earth to do the will of His Father. Remember the temptations of the devil in the desert. The devil was trying to get Jesus to forsake His mission from the Father. He was trying to divide Jesus from His Father. Satan failed. Jesus remained pure of heart, single-hearted, all the way to the cross. Even when He was in turmoil in the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed that His Father would take the cup of suffering away from Him, He surrendered to His Father’s will and said: “but not my will, but your will be done.” This is what it means to be pure of heart, single-hearted allegiance to God’s well. Mary shows us this as well. Mary lived her whole life, including at the foot of the cross, the words she said at the Annunciation: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me according to your will.” Mary was pure of heart. We even refer to her heart as the Immaculate Heart, like we refer to Jesus’ heart as the Sacred Heart. Their hearts were filled with love. Their hearts were focused on God and God’s will.
A pure heart is not only an obedient heart, it is a loving heart. How often we pray in the psalms that God will cleanse our hearts. This is an important prayer. And tonight you have the opportunity to have your hearts purified in the sacrament of Penance. We know from the psalms that God will not spurn a heart that is contrite and humble. God puts in us a new heart, that He will make our hearts pure like the hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Pray for the gift to become more single-hearted. Think of this beautiful Beatitude: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” With all the things going on in our life and all the many distractions, only one thing is necessary. That thing is our relationship with Jesus. When we center our lives on Jesus Christ, when living with Him forever in heaven is our goal, then our lives have meaning and purpose. I pray we live this life with passion for this ultimate end – to see God face to face. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.