January 29, 2023; Matthew 5:1-12a; 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s gospel gives us Jesus’s beatitudes, eight sayings that begin with the words “Blessed are.” The best way to understand the word “blessed” is with the word “happy,” because each of the beatitudes describes a condition that we want. Jesus is giving us eight ways to be happy. Before mass, Deacon Jerry suggested that I spend about five minutes on each of the beatitudes. But that would be a homily of about 40 minutes. So I am not going to do that. Sorry, Jerry.
Instead we are going to focus on one beatitude, the sixth beatitude: Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God. What does Jesus mean by “clean of heart”? He is not talking about scrubbing sin from our heart. He is advising us to remove from our heart everything that is unnecessary and focusing on what is truly important. The person who is clean of heart has a clear purpose to life, a focus for all that he or she does. We could even translate this beatitude, “Happy are the single-hearted, for they shall see God”.
The German philosopher, Kierkegaard, said that a saint is someone whose life is about one thing. There is a trick in Kierkegaard’s words, because there is only one thing great enough for a life to be about: our relationship with God. We are busy people. We have a lot of different things we must do. We have to work. We have to love our family. We have to take time to relax. We have to be attentive to our health. We have to build new relationships. All these things are important, but none of them is big enough for our life to be about.
Our life cannot be about work. As satisfying as work is, a time will come when we will work no more. Then what will we do? Our life cannot be about leisure, because as regenerating as music, sports, and traveling are, no one of them is enough to live on. Our life cannot even be about family and friends. As central as our relationships are, relationships also disappoint us. And when we lose someone that we love, by misunderstanding or death, how can we move forward?
There is only one thing that is big enough for life to be about, and that is to do everything with and for God. If we do that, if we attain that singleness of heart, the beatitude tells us that we shall see God. We shall see God everywhere. We will see God’s hand when our business is successful and feel God’s help, if our business goes South. We will see God’s beauty in the power of nature or in the wonder of human artistry. We will see God’s beauty, as we drive our kids to soccer practice, as we discuss a difficult question with our spouse, as we look for patience when dealing with an aging parent.
We will see God’s presence in all of these places, because all that we do will be done with and for God. And then, we will be blessed. Being single-hearted not only makes us holy, it also makes us happy.