April 5th, 2020
Let God Purify Our Hearts & Experience Fullness of Joy
Pope Francis’ Catechesis 1st April, 2020
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today we read together the eighth Beatitude, which promises the vision of God and has, as condition, purity of heart.
A Psalm says: “My heart repeats your invitation: ‘Seek ye my face!’ Thy face, Lord, do I seek.’ Hide not thy face from me” (27:8-9).
This language manifests the thirst of a personal relationship with God, not mechanical, not somewhat nebulous, no: personal, which the Book of Job also expresses as sign of a sincere relationship. The Book of Job says thus: “I had heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees Thee” (Job 42:5). And I often think that this is the way of life, of our relations with God. We know God by hearsay, but with our experience we go forward, forward, forward and in the end we know Him directly, if we are faithful . . . And this is maturity of the Spirit.
How can one come to this intimacy, to know God with the eyes? We can think of the disciples of Emmaus, for instance, who had the Lord next to them, “but their eyes were kept from recognizing Him” (Luke 24:16). The Lord would open their eyes at the end of a journey that culminates with the breaking of the bread and that began with a reproach: “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! (Luke 24:25).” That is the reproach of the beginning. Here is the origin of their thirst: their foolish and slow heart. And when the heart is foolish and slow things are not seen. Things are seen as cloudy. Here is the wisdom of this Beatitude: to be able to contemplate, it’s necessary to enter within ourselves and make room for God because, as Saint Augustine says, “God is more intimate to me than myself” (“interior intimo meo,” Confessions, III, 6, 11). To see God it’s no good to change one’s eyeglasses or point of observation, or to change theological authors that teach the way: it’s necessary to free the heart from its deceits! This is the only way. This is a decisive maturation: when we realize that our worst enemy is often hidden in our heart.
The noblest battle is that against the interior deceits that generate our sins. Because sins change one’s interior vision, change the rating of things, make one see things that aren’t true, or at least that aren’t so true. Therefore, it’s important to understand what “purity of heart” is. To do so, one must remember that for the Bible the heart doesn’t consist only of feelings, but is the most intimate place of the human being, the interior space where a person is himself — this, according to the biblical mentality. The same Gospel of Matthew says: “If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (6:23). This “light” is the gaze of the heart, the perspective, the synthesis, the point from which the reality is read (Cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 143).
However, what does a “pure” heart mean? He who is pure of heart lives in the Lord’s presence, keeping in the heart what is worthy of the relationship with Him; only thus does he have an intimate, “unified” life — linear, not torturous but simple. Hence, the purified heart is the result of a process that implies liberation and renunciation. The pure of heart is not born as such; he has lived an interior simplification, learning to renounce the evil in himself, something that in the Bible is called circumcision of the heart (Cf. Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Ezekiel 44:9; Jeremiah 4:4). This interior purification implies the recognition of that part of the heart that is under the influence of evil. — “You know, Father, I feel so, I think so, I see so, and this is awful”: to recognize the awful part, the part that is clouded by evil — to learn the art of allowing oneself always to be taught and led by the Holy Spirit. The way of the sick heart, of the sinful heart, of the heart that can’s see things well, because it is in sin; at the fullness of the heart’s light is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is He who guides this journey to fulfilment. See, through this journey of the heart, we come to “see God.”
In this Beatific Vision there is a future, eschatological dimension, as in all the Beatitudes: it’s the joy of the Kingdom of Heaven to which we are going. However there is also the other dimension: to see God means to understand the designs of Providence in what happens to us, to recognize His presence in the Sacraments, His presence in brothers, especially the poor and suffering, and to recognize Him where He manifests Himself (Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2519).
This Beatitude is somewhat the fruit of the preceding ones: if we have felt the thirst of the good that dwells in us and are aware that we live of mercy, a journey of liberation begins, which lasts our whole life and leads us to Heaven. It’s a serious work, a work that the Holy Spirit does if we give Him the room to do it, if we are open to the action of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we can say that it’s a work of God in us — in the trials and purifications of life – and this work of God and of the Holy Spirit leads to a great joy, to a true peace. We must not be afraid; let us open the doors of our heart to the Holy Spirit, so that He can purify us and lead us forward on this path to full joy.
[Original text: Italian]