Shalom and Salaam – 3

“Blessed are the clean of heart for they shall see God.” (Matt 5:8)

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus describes what it means to follow him – not as an admirer or imitator, but as “one who does the will of his Father.” (Matt 12:50) And the will of the Father is to love – to love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves. (Matt 22:37-39) Being clean of heart is to love God and our neighbor with a simplicity and genuineness, not merely in words, “but in truth and deed.” (1 John 3:18)

Sometimes this beatitude is translated as being “pure of heart.” And living with a pure heart is certainly counter-cultural. But is it possible today to be authentically pure? No, not if we confuse the meaning of purity with perfection. Seeking to become perfect can lead to becoming self-righteous and judgmental of others. This is exactly what Jesus was denouncing in the behavior of the Pharisees later in the Gospel. (See Matt 15:1-20)

“By seeking to be pure and perfect, people become full of themselves, then judgmental of others, then extremely self-righteous and authoritarian. This kind of fundamentalism can lead good people to do great harm in the name of God, whether they are the religious authorities who wanted to kill Jesus (and eventually did), or the violent fundamentalists present today – in all the world’s religions.” (John Dear, The Beatitudes of Peace)

The call to be clean of heart is not a goal for us to achieve. It is a process, and not of our own doing. Pope Francis reminds us that “God wants to speak to our hearts (see Hos 2:16); there he desires to write his law. (see Jer 31:33). In a word, he wants to give us a new heart. (see Ezek. 36:25-26)” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 83)

God gives a heart like his. And over time, this heart widens its embrace for others, including our enemies. Allowing God to clean our hearts is to respond to the invitation of Jesus to take the path of an inner journey where we discover the peace – shalom and salaam – that only he can give.

Shalom and Salaam.

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