We just heard Our Blessed Lord lay out His program for the Kingdom of God, called the Beatitudes. This morning, I will focus on just one of them, the 6th: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. We read the other day in the life of St Bernadette that, when asked by someone if the vision of Our Lady was beautiful, she replied that she was so beautiful that you would gladly die in order to see her again.
Such gives us a faint idea of what it is like to see God. That is what Heaven is about. St John tells us in his first epistle: Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when He is revealed, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is. And all who have this hope in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure. (1 Jn 3:2-3). St Paul, for his part tells us: For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known (1 Co 13:12).
Such is the awesome destiny to which we are called. Heaven, our eternal home, the true land in which we are destined to remain forever, where we will see God. Pope Benedict XII, when he defined as a dogma of faith that the souls of the saints actually see God, specifies that this vision is: “intuitive, face to face, without the mediation of any creature… the divine essence is seen immediately, openly, clearly… the elect enjoy this vision of the divine essence, and they are truly blessed and have eternal life and rest” (Bull Benedictus Deus). Theological terminology here seeks exhausts the resources of human language; it can go no further. The infused virtue of faith alone can lead to a deeper understanding of what those words mean, but in this life, there will always be a veil. Only after death will the veil be lifted, and our beloved God will be seen face to face.
If we want to see God for all eternity, that vision which alone can fully appease all the desires of our mind and body, we have only to purify our heart. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. To have a pure heart is certainly to be chaste, that is, to be no slave to the lusts of the flesh, but it means much more than that. To have a pure heart means to aim at God alone, to love God alone, to focus on Him, to want Him, to have no facades. It is to seek in all things only what will lead to Him. It is to be detached from anything that is not Him or could take us away from Him.
St Augustine and St Thomas tell us that it is the virtue of faith that makes this passionate search for the face of God possible, and it is the Gift of understanding which incites us to purify our vision and seek what eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, those things that God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Co 2:9). If that desire grows in us, then the temptation to find satisfaction in creatures will lose its hold on us.
On this day, then, let us ask for the grace that our minds and hearts may truly dwell on high, that we may pierce the clouds, and share through faith in the beatitude of all the brothers and sisters who are already there and who, as the great crowd of witnesses (cf. Hb 12:1), are cheering us on to our own reward, they who, in the inspired words of St John: are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the centre of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (Rev 7:15-17).