Monday June 7, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Tenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (1 Kings 17:1-6) Gospel (St. Matthew 5:1-12)
In the Gospel reading today, we hear the Beatitudes which lay out for us the perfect way that we are to live. But of all of these points, there is one that I would like to take a look at today because of the importance of it and exactly what it tells us that we are going to be able to see: Blessed are the pure of heart for they will see God. When we think about what that really says, the only ones according to this who are going to see God are those who are pure of heart. That purity of heart implies not only sexual purity – which, of course, is critical – but it implies the whole relationship with God being in right order. And so it implies, once again, that we have a prayer life and that what we are seeking in our lives is to be purified so as to be united with God.
That is what God would desire for us more than anything. He wants us to be united with Him, and He wants that union so desperately that He is willing to give whatever He has to give in order for us to be able to achieve that. Our little bit of effort is going to be complemented by God by a huge effort (not that there is really any effort on God’s part anyway, but if we look at it as far as the whole program goes, we will do a little bit and He will do the rest). But it is a matter, first of all, of our willingness. It sounds like a wonderful thing and we say, “What a great thing; I want to see God!” Who doesn’t? But if we really, really stop and think about it, the question is – Do we want to see Him? Theoretically, it sounds like a pretty wonderful thing; practically, it sounds pretty terrifying for most of us because what the devil does is he looks at us and says, “Who do you think you are? How arrogant! Look at how rotten and worthless you are! Look at your sins!” He shames us, and that shame is exactly the opposite of the purity of heart that is being spoken of. So what we have to be able to do is to work through the prayer life at overcoming the effects of our sins so that purity of heart is going to be there.
When we look at somebody like Our Blessed Lady, like some of the great saints, we can certainly see the purity of heart that is there very easily. We say, “Yes, but some of them have never committed a mortal sin, and Our Lady never even committed the least imperfection. There’s no hope for me.” That is not true at all because in God’s mercy remember what He said to Mary Magdalene: Because her love is great, her sins which are great will be forgiven. All that is required is that we love God and that we love Him with a pure heart.
Now that means we are going to have to reject those things in the world that are going to be opposed to this purity of heart. That is a lot, and perhaps many of us have become accustomed to all the things the world is offering that are not good. We have become attached to them, unfortunately, and we do not really want to give them up because there is some kind of pleasure or consolation or whatever it might be that is involved in these things. But the reality is that these are the very things, externally at least, that keep us from God. But it is what is in the heart that either unites us with God or divides us from Him; and more than anything, we have to have that goal of wanting to see God.
We were created for this purity of heart. We were created for all these Beatitudes, for that matter. But when you look at Adam and Eve in the Garden, they had that purity of heart. They could look at one another in their nakedness, and there was no shame until after they sinned. So it tells us in part exactly what we are looking for. We are looking for that pure love, that true love, that love which seeks only the good of the other, a love which is not tainted by lust, a love which is not tainted by anything selfish, a love which is pure like the love of Christ. This is something we are capable of. Of course, we are going to quickly respond and say, “Well, Adam and Eve were in the Garden before sin, so we can’t do that.” In Christ, we have been elevated beyond what Adam and Eve had in the Garden. We do not have the original integrity that they had, but we have the grace of God, we have the divine nature, we have been incorporated into Christ Himself, we have been raised to a divine level of acting and of being. We have more than what Adam and Eve had, so we are without excuse.
Now the question once again is – Do we want it? Do we really want to see God? How badly do we want to see God? There is absolutely nothing that could be greater or more beautiful than to see God. This is exactly why He created us: so that we could be with Him forever, so that we could behold Him face-to-face for all eternity. Again, we like the idea of being able to go to heaven, but do we really want it? How badly do we want it? Do we want it badly enough that we are going to be willing to forsake all of the selfishness in order to see God? That is the condition. Blessed are the pure of heart for they will see God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.