“Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God”!
These mysterious words were spoken by the Lord Jesus, one of eight sayings that are known as the Beatitudes.
The Beatitudes overturn human expectations in terms of authentic religiosity. Authentic religion does not provide divine sanction for our worldliness, safe certitudes or easy answers, but changes us, and in changing us, changes the world.
Christ’s invocation of blessing for the pure of heart is apt (appropriate) to recall on this the day when the Church commemorates the revelation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Purity of heart is often associated in the minds of many with the virtue of chastity, and this association gives rise to the understanding of the Immaculate Heart of Christ’s Mother as being a kind of symbolic representation of the truth of her sacred virginity.
However, purity of heart is a spiritual disposition that is more about the receptivity of the Mother of God to receive and accept God’s will, a resolute trust in the purpose that God revealed for her life.
In this regard think of the Gospel testimony to her remarkable “fiat”, that is, her response to the angelic messenger who invited her to be the Mother of God. Confronted with her life’s purpose, a divinely revealed purpose, Christ’s Mother, accepted God’s plan- “Be it done to me according to your will”.
The implications of her “fiat” are perhaps difficult for us to fathom. Her loving acceptance of God’s will meant more that simply accepting pregnancy and birth. It meant accepting letting God accomplish his purposes, rather than jealously guarding her life as her own self-directed project. Christ’s Mother would not dictate terms to God for what she would be or do, insisting that her will be God’s will, but she would place her life at his disposal.
The pinnacle of the self-gift, the self-surrender of Christ’s Mother is displayed for us in the harsh revelation of the cross. The great spiritual writer Hans Urs von Balthasar comments that in the moment of the cross, the darkness that enveloped the Son, also shrouded his Mother. In other words, Christ’s Mother was ready and willing to go where God wanted her to go, even it that meant the cross.
Christ’s Mother would trust God in the midst of an unrelieved anguish, sharing with him the astonishing sense of being forsaken and alone. Unable to alleviate the misery of the one she loved most in the world, she abided in trust, a trust that believed in faith that no matter how the circumstances felt to her, her feeling were not the whole truth of what was happening- there would be more to be revealed.
This trust is made possible by purity of heart and it imparts the spiritual vision to see that God’s will can be accomplished even in those experiences that we cannot ourselves understand.
Purity of heart also means that we are free of agendas, plots and planning, and in this regard, Christ’s mother is exemplary. Sadly, for many, the spiritual life can become something akin to the negotiation of a contract. How much of our lives do we spend pre-occupied with, not only getting others, but God, to do what we want! Treating others as if they were placed on earth to do our bidding!
Purity of heart is the total contrary to the rapacious desire to control everyone and everything around us.
The Christian faith if accepted for what it really and truly is, will always be a ruthless of our sincerity. A disciple must come to terms with the desires of his or her heart, confronting our real answer to the question “What do I want?” The Blessed Virgin Mary’s answer to this question was “I want what God wants”. What is our own answer? We must face our answer honestly and forthrightly, and come to terms with how much we desire to accomplish, not God’s will, but our own.
A singular emphasis on getting what we want, narrows us, makes us small, and constricts our possibilities. While imparting an illusion of freedom, what really happens is not freedom at all, but an imprisonment in the ego.
On this the day when the Church recalls the mystery of the Mother of God’s Immaculate Heart, may we find in God’s will our purpose and our peace.