Monday, September 5, 2016

Why we need a pure heart in order to see God.

The Church’s history has been replete with examples and stories of how saints have been made saints because they managed to keep themselves pure.  This gives us reason for the Church’s teachings on sexual purity largely because many of these stories of purity were mainly centered on sexual purity, where these saints fought courageously and prophetically to preserve and maintain their sexuality from being tarnished and sullied.  Moreover, the Blessed Mother herself, the greatest of all saints, is hailed as the Virgin Mary, denoting that virginal purity is highly prized as a badge of honour when entering the heavenly halls.  Up and down the centuries, the image of the Roman Catholic church has been often critiqued as a stuffy and fussy upholder of prudishness and cautions against a life lived according to the pleasure principle.

There is good reason to champion purity and chastity, but unless we truly understand the sound reason for this, worldly eyes will always misread and misunderstand this fundamental need to be pure.  The call is not just on the level of sexuality, though predominantly it can appear to be so.  Purity is something that has to be lived and inculcated in every sphere of our lives if we want to “see God”, as Matthew 5:8 tells us that “blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God”. 

Purity has to be understood in terms of being genuine, sincere and honest.  When one has pure motives, it means that one’s motives are also undiluted, unmixed and clear.  However, most of the time, we find ourselves doing things with very mixed motives, and if we are truly honest, we will find ourselves admitting that there are various degrees of self-serving reasons for many of the things we do, and that includes living out our religious and spiritual lives.  There are some couples who do admit that the reasons for their being married was because they did not want to be ‘left on the shelf’ for the rest of their lives.  Love then was not the real reason for their marriage, but rather, a sense of self-preservation and self-protection.  It does seem to fall rather far from the pure reason for love, which as St Thomas teaches, is ‘willing the good of the other as other.’

One of the truly amazing things about grace is that it works at where we are.  If we are open to grace at whatever level of life we may be at, even at the most selfish levels, but are seeking to purify our motives and work at becoming less and less selfish and self-centered, our mixed motives can be purified and slowly become less diluted and clarified. 

With faith, there is no lost cause.  We do however, need to be aware of the desire to want to seek purification in life, and to truly make it an act of the will. 

Perhaps this is where most of us falter – we are just not hungry enough to want to live in the purity of the gospel.  Just as the enemy of the perfect is the good, so too is our desire to want purity in many of our endeavours in life.  Our weak wills settle too easily for the moderate and the mediocre.  We hardly believe in the need to set our sights high. 

The Catholic doctrine of purgatory isn’t highly fashionable in theology, and it is a shame.  I believe that without a proper appreciation of what it truly is, many reduce it to an idea of the past, where there is a lot of suffering with images of fire and agony.  These are but metaphors to denote that it is painful when love undergoes any purification.  It is because what heaven offers is love at its purest and most unsullied, that it necessarily demands of purification that we willingly take on when we see how selfish and impure our loving had been in this life.  No one sends us to purgatory.  We willingly and honestly take ourselves there because we finally see just how pure God’s goodness and holiness is in the light of how impure our love had been. 

Then, once we have managed to purify our love, then we will be able to truly ‘see God’.  The retinas of our hearts would have been dilated enough to take in all the splendor and radiance that God’s love wants to fill us with.


  1. Fr Luke,
    Thanks for this, mixed motives is something we can all relate to. What I really like is grace works where we are and there is a chance for our motives to be less selfish and self centred. I must admit that at my baptism I was content to be a Sunday Catholic, more interested in a career. But by God’s grace, a job I held was located next to a Catholic Church, so I had the chance to attend weekday mass and slowly experienced a deeper spiritual journey over time. Grace really works where we are!
    Ps. I’m sure there are many people who are awake when you share your homily. And read your blog too. Gives us some food for thought. thanks

  2. A few days ago, we read the Gospel story of Jesus healing the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath and what left an impression was what the homilist said about.....perhaps it was the withered hearts of the Pharisees that needed healing. I was pretty amused at first with the picture of hearts that are shrivelled, shrunken and flaccid but going a bit further – when he linked it to us .................... “most of the time, we find ourselves doing things with very mixed motives, and if we are truly honest, we will find ourselves admitting that there are various degrees of self-serving reasons for many of the things we do” (as I read in this post) – I was appalled that - perhaps we, like the Pharisees desiring to achieve purity of heart, (highly commendable) are doing it the wrong way.

    In this pursuit of zeal for God, the Pharisees adhered much obsessive observances to a myriad of laws and regulations leaving the heart untouched, unchanged. Are we similarly, dedicating ourselves to making the world a better place, dedicating our time to God in ministry work - because we also crave for recognition and the approval of our peers through our “good deeds”? No wonder the Bible did say that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked...”

    The only way to be honest with ourselves is to seek Him in the prayer of quiet for in this silence we can allow His grace to work and perhaps come to an understanding of the self. We only need a brief period of silence and stillness each day, as we go into meditation. The difficult part will be the accepting of this ‘flawed self’ as we become chastened and more humble and truly contrite for our pride and ego-centredness. I believe that it would take time, patience and discipline to purify our hearts but it is something that only the Holy Spirit will accomplish in us if we allow Him .

    God bless u, Fr


  3. Dear Father Luke,
    All persons are sinners without exception. Our inherited tendencies, our environment, our history, and our friends and relatives all leads us to sin. We have to bear suffering and unpleasant circumstances provoked by the sins of former generations. We may have reason to complain but we do not have reason to blame. The lamentations show how to take complaints to God. Ezekiel shows how to bear our responsibility. We do not focus on our fathers'faults.We focus on God's call to us for religion loyalty, sexual faithfulness and purity, just treatment of other people including the poor and underprivileged, charity to the needy. respect for other people's property, fair judgement in decisions affecting other people and obedience to God's will. When we live within this focus, we know we are rightly related to God. When we do not , we know we must seek forgiveness through our repentance and God's grace. Each is personally responsible. Accepting such responsibility is not onetime act but a daily relationship with God in order for us to see God.

    In general, faithful to our vocations, obedient to God's will and repentance. ( Psalm 51: 10. Psalm 73:1)( Eze 18:15).