Recap of the Theme so far
The Joy of Compassion calls us in Christ to seek justice for others and mercy from us. Compassion sees how we have all been forgiven by Christ and his cross, so we ought not to withhold our own mercy from others. Compassion means we suffer with others in order to bring understanding, support, and freedom into an otherwise dark place.
The Beatitudes for tonight are meant to take us even deeper into the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The first set of Beatitudes sets the foundation by rooting us in humility and uprooting sin from our hearts. The second set builds outward by giving us the proper attitude we ought to have towards our neighbors, to hunger for justice and to be generous with mercy. This next set of Beatitudes shows us the fruits of a radiant Christian life.
Purity of Heart
Purity in the Old Testament had to do with being prepared to worship God in the Temple. Purity was tied to worship and the liturgy. In the New Testament time period, the Pharisees carried this external purity to new extremes, and become obsessed with outward adherence to these rules of purity. But as they were ritually pure, they were spiritually stained, for they were not cultivating mercy and love of neighbor. They found no joy in that kind of love.
When Jesus said, “pure of heart” he was drawing attention away from the obsession with external purification rituals of the Pharisees. He focuses on the heart, but their external approach kept their hearts from being truly pure. Jesus even called them “white-washed tombs” that are pretty on the outside, but inside, they are full of dead men’s bones!
This was the difference b/t Christ’s attitude to sinners and that of the Pharisees. Jesus associated with sinners in order to radiate upon them and their faults the merciful purity of the love of God, and so to heal them, while the Pharisees feared contamination. (Servais Pinckaers, O.P., Sources of Christian Ethics)
Purity means freedom from compromise, especially with sin. The only way you can do that is by building of the habit of consistently choosing God above all other things, even if it comes at a great personal cost.
Purity prevents sexuality from using another person as a mere object for my enjoyment. Sins like pornography are impure because they compromised the heart, turning real men and women into objects, turning opportunities for love into lust. Love is a beautiful thing between a man and a woman, and purity keeps it that way.
Let’s think about this for a moment. Purity of heart means to be dedicated, devoted to your vision of life and God’s will for it. It means to be “All in”, holding nothing back anymore. The problem with this is that the world doesn’t like idealism. The spirit of the world is a spirit of mediocrity. It hates it when people stand out as being too good. It mocks virtues and principles and those who have them. Even more so, the world despises any limits on human sexuality, and the very idea of purity is offensive to it.
The pure of heart shall see God. No one else gets to have that vision. The Pharisees could not see the image of God in those they called “sinners” because their hearts were not pure. Jesus was able to see the humanity, the brokenness, behind the sin, and he was able to enter right into the middle of the muddiness of their lives in order to bring that joy that, up till now, they never knew.
Peacemakers are Children of God
We are all called to become peacemakers. Few tasks could be more difficult, but Jesus came to change our identity, to make us children of the Father, and according to him, it is to the peacemakers that the title “children of God” most applies to in the Kingdom. High school can be a war zone at times, especially when big problems creep up into a group of friends.
What is peace? Peace is not just the absence of conflict or the lack of fighting. This is a negative and empty, though common, viewpoint that drains peace of its power. A more positive and biblical view of peace is the harmony between people, coexistence and interdependence. It is a friendship, not just an agreement to not kill one another.
Peace is connected to Purity of Heart. Making peace flows from one who is pure of heart, for only the individual who has stopped compromising with evil can find that peace within himself first. You cannot give what you do not have. Peace begins with the individual and is meant to radiate outwards, like joy.
Think about the people in the world who have made peace between angry or hurt people. It is done at great personal cost, involving huge sacrifices by the peacemaker. Nelson Mandela spent 20+ years in prison trying to reconcile the black and whites of South Africa. How many civil rights leaders were attacked or murdered, like MLK, for trying to bring about a just peace back in the 60s and 70s? But you cannot be a peacemaker in such circumstances without also being merciful.
Peace must be made.
It takes time and attention. War, in-fighting, backstabbing- all of that just happens in relationships if we do not work at it. Wars are fought between family members, friends, cities, countries because no one was willing to step in and stop it. For the peace of Jesus Christ to have a chance, we need dedicated men and women working and building up a civilization of peace. We need our high schools to become places of peace. We need you students desperately to take a stand and put a dent in the universe.
There are many wars that need heroes to step into and bring peace. Abortion is a war on the unborn. Euthanasia is a war on the elderly and chronically ill. There is actual war that needs the Christian voice of opposition, of which America is currently fighting with six different countries, yet so few Americans are concerned or even care. We’ve grown used to war, to violence. Being at war seems normal to us now.
Peace is almost never popular, like when a crowd gathers, chanting “Fight! Fight! Fight!” when to boys start punching each other. It is so easy to do nothing, or to join in the chant. Christ asks more of us!
And on being Children of God, Father Servais Pinchaers, a modern apostle of the Beatitudes, explains its correlation to peacemaking.
“Peacemakers are not the sons of a world torn by unending human dissension and war. They win the name of sons of God because they bring to the world the peace and reconciliation which can only come from Him- we can even say, the peace which is God” (Servais Pinchaers, OP).
There is no room for the radiation of joy when lust and violence dominate the culture. People cannot trust one another in such an environment. We need to be able, out of pure love for our neighbors, to stand in the gap and bring real peace back into our homes, our schools, our work places, our friendships, our teams.
But it all starts with you. You need to become a just and merciful person. You need to cultivate purity of heart in your life first. You need to have peace with God and with yourself before you seek to bring peace into the world. All of this is done by giving yourself to Jesus Christ and following after Him on the way to the cross.
How can joy radiate out to others in the presence of lust or conflict? Joy gets hidden in those places. But just imagine the radiation of joy that comes when two people reconcile with one another because of your “Yes” to Christ. That’s how we change the world.