Matthew 5, 1-12: The Beatitudes
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Mt. 5,8)
One of the most difficult virtues to do is to be pure of heart. This beatitude therefore meets us at the very core of our being where we are asked to examine our motives. The Greek word for pure is katharos and it is used to describe many things such as clean laundry, chaff-less grain like rice removed of its husk, unadulterated wine and the elements such as metal, or a group of fearless soldiers or focused students determined to reach one goal.
However, we all know that we always come to the Lord with an “entangled mass of motives” as Richard Foster calls it. Even if we have done something good, in our heart there lingers some “self-approval” --- praising and crediting ourselves for doing such a good deed. A friend of mine puts it this way: “I am so proud I have been generous!” Or we catch ourselves publishing our good works. Moreover, whatever is in our hearts often reflects how we view things like colored sunglasses. We see what we want to see. There are those who are malicious, so they are accustomed to put malice on any gesture we do.
Aside from the examination of consciousness done before the Sacrament of Reconciliation, there are ways that would help us be “single-hearted” and help us focus our gaze on God. The beatitude is not just about what makes us unclean like sin, but tells us to develop an attitude that we have to work on. Once we are able to learn how to be sensitive to God’s working in our lives, we will be able to keep our hearts pure. John A. Veltri SJ in the first volume of Orientations, his 1979 collection of helps for prayer teaches us the following exercise to search and train our hearts to keep its gaze on God.
Thanksgiving: Begin by looking over the day and asking to see where you need to be thankful. Do not choose what YOU think you should be thankful for, rather, by merely looking over the day, see what emerges, what you notice, even slightly. How do you feel towards what is shown to you? Do you see the giftedness of your life? Allow gratitude to take hold on you and express this to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Ask for Light. This is a prayer of enlightenment from God not from your own analysis of the day. Therefore, ask the Holy Spirit to show you what He wants you to see.
Find God in all Things. Again look over the events of the day. This time ask the Lord to show you where He has been present in your life, either in you or in others, and what He has been asking of you. Look over your interior moods, feelings, urges, motives and movements, and see what stands out. Look for joy, pain, turmoil, increase of love, anger, harmony, anxiety, freedom, imprisonment, presence of God or absence. In what general direction do you think you are being drawn by the Lord? Have you been responding to these experiences or situations that draw you towards the Lord and inviting you to be more like him?
More particularly, what attitudes are manifest in these experiences? Remember that your experience helps you to discover the underlying attitude, and your actions and choices flow from these attitudes. Is there any one place in your heart or any one attitude that the Lord is calling for conversion? Is there any one area you are being asked to focus your attention on, to pray more seriously over, to take action on? This is where your energy needs focus instead of on the many other things you think are important.
The Gifts of Sorrow, Forgiveness and Gratitude. Seek forgiveness from the Lord for the moments you did not respond to His love. Do not be afraid to ask for the gift of an ever-deepening sorrow for not cooperating with Him.
Help and Guidance for tomorrow. Ask the Father for your needs of tomorrow such as to overcome something in your life like low self-esteem, to persevere and have courage at trying times, to love more, to let go of people and events in our lives.
By doing this exercise, we will be able to untangle the mass of motives that we have and train our hearts to be accustomed to see God in all things.