Wednesday, April 1, 2020

General Audience: a pure heart

This morning's General Audience began at 9:30am local time (3:30am EDT) in the Library at the Vatican Apostolic Palace.

In his speech, the Pope continued the cycle of catechesis on the Beatitudes, adding his meditation on the sixth Beatitude: Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God (Mt 5:8).

After having summarized his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father offered particular greetings to each group of the faithful who were following the Audience.

The General Audience concluded with the recitation of the Lord's Prayer and the Apostolic blessing.

Catechesis of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today, we read together the sixth Beatitude, which promises God's vision and has purity of heart as a condition.

The Psalm says: My heart repeats your invitation: 'Seek my face!'  Your face, O Lord, do I seek.  Do not hide your face from me (Ps 27: 8-9).

This language demonstrates a thirst for a personal relationship with God, not a mechanical relationship, not a relationship that is a bit nebulous, no: a personal relationship which even the book of Job expresses as a sign of a sincere relationship.  The book of Job says this: I knew you only by hearsay, but now my eyes have seen you (Job 42: 5).  I often think that this is the journey of life, in our relationships with God.  We know God first by hearsay, but through our own experiences, we can continue on, further and further and in the end we come to know him personally, if we are faithful ... And this is Spiritual maturity.

How can we arrive at such intimacy, of knowing God with our eyes?  We can think of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, for example, who had the Lord Jesus walking beside them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him (Lk 24: 16).  The Lord only opened their eyes at the end of the journey, which culminated with the breaking of the bread and began with a rebuke: How foolish and slow of heart you have been to believe in all that was said by the prophets! (Lk 24:25).  That was the rebuke at the beginning of the journey.  This was the beginning of their blindness: their foolish and slow hearts.  When the heart is foolish and slow, it cannot see things.  It sees things in a cloudy way.  Here we find the wisdom of this beatitude: in order for us to contemplate, we need to enter into ourselves and make some space for God because, as Saint Augustine says: God is closer to me than I am to myself (my inner intimacy, Confessions, III, 6, 11).  In order to see God, it is not enough merely to change our glasses or our point of observation, or to change theological authors who are teaching us the way; we need to free our hearts from their own deceptions!  This is the only way.

This is a sign of decisive maturation: when we realize that our worst enemy is often hidden in our hearts. The most noble battle is fought against internal deceptions that generate our sins. Because sins change the inner vision, they change the evaluation of things, make people see things that are not true, or at least things that are not entirely true.

Therefore, it is important to understand what purity of the heart is. To do this, we must remember that in the bible, the heart does not consist only of feelings; rather, it is the most intimate place of the human being, the inner space where a person is himself. This is the way it was, according to the biblical mentality.

The same Gospel of Matthew says: If the light that is in you is darkness, how great the darkness will be! (Mt 6: 23). This light is the gaze of the heart, perspective, synthesis, the point from which reality is understood (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 143).

But what is the meaning of a pure heart?  Those who are pure in heart live in the presence of the Lord, keeping in their hearts that which is worthy of the relationship with Him; only in this way can he have a unified life, which is linear, not torturous but simple.

Someone who is pure of heart is not born as such, rather he has experienced an interior simplification, learning to deny evil in itself, which in the Bible is called circumcision of the heart (cf Dt 10: 16; 30: 6; Ez 44: 9; Jer 4: 4).

This inner purification implies the recognition of that part of the heart that is under the influence of evil - You know, Father, I feel like this, I think so, I see like this, and this is bad: to recognize the bad part, the part that is clouded by evil - to learn the art of always being taught and led by the Holy Spirit. The journey from the sick heart, from the sinful heart, from the heart that cannot see things well, because it is in sin, to the fullness of the light of the heart it is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is he who guides us on this journey. Here, through this journey of the heart, we come to see God.

In this beatific vision there is a future, eschatological dimension, as in all the Beatitudes: it is the joy of the Kingdom of Heaven to which we go. But there is also the other dimension: seeing God means understanding the designs of Providence in what happens to us, recognizing his presence in the Sacraments, his presence in our brothers and sisters, especially the poor and the suffering, and recognizing him where He manifests himself (cf Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2519).

This Beatitude is a bit the fruit of the previous ones: if we have listened to the thirst for good that lives in us and we are aware of living in mercy, a journey of liberation begins that lasts a lifetime and leads to Heaven. It is a serious job, a job that the Holy Spirit does if we give him space to do it, if we are open to the action of the Holy Spirit. For this reason we can say that it is a work of God in us - in the trials and purifications of life - and this work of God and the Holy Spirit leads to great joy, to true peace. We are not afraid, we open the doors of our heart to the Holy Spirit to purify us and carry us forward on this path towards full joy.
Testo originale nella lingua italiana

The Holy Father's catechesis was then summarized in various languages and His Holiness offered greetings to each group of listeners.  To French-speaking viewers he said:

Je salue cordialement les personnes de langue française. Frères et sœurs, profitons de ce temps de carême pour entendre cette soif de Dieu qui habite en nous. Poursuivons notre chemin de libération, à travers les épreuves et les purifications de la vie, qui nous conduise à la gloire du ciel. Que Dieu vous bénisse.

I cordially greet the French-speaking people.  Brothers and sisters, let us take advantage of this Lenten time to be aware of this thirst for God that is within us.  Let us continue our path toward freedom, a path that includes trials and purifications in life, a path that leads to the glory of heaven.  May God bless you.

To English-speaking viewers, he said:

I greet the English-speaking faithful joining us through the media, as we continue on our Lenten journey towards Easter. Upon you and your families, I invoke the strength and peace that come from our Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless you!

To German-speaking viewers, he said:

Einen herzlichen Gruß richte ich an die Gläubigen deutscher Sprache. Betrachten wir in dieser Zeit der Prüfung das Angesicht des für uns gekreuzigten und gestorbenen Herrn, damit wir in seinem Kreuz die Quelle der wahren Hoffnung und Freude erkennen, durch das er das Böse und die Sünde besiegt hat.

I extend a warm greeting to the German-speaking believers. In this time of trial, let us look at the face of the Lord who was crucified and died for us, so that we may see in his cross the source of true hope and joy by which he defeated evil and sin.

To Spanish-speaking viewers, he said:

Saludo cordialmente a los fieles de lengua española, que siguen esta catequesis a través de los medios de comunicación social. Pidamos al Señor que nos conceda pureza y sencillez de corazón para descubrir su Providencia en los sucesos de la vida cotidiana. Y tengamos presentes, en estos momentos de prueba y oscuridad, a todos nuestros hermanos y hermanas que sufren, y a quienes los ayudan y acompañan con amor y generosidad. Que Dios los bendiga.

I cordially greet the Spanish-speaking faithful, who are following this catechesis through the media. Let us ask the Lord to grant us purity and simplicity of heart to discover his Providence in the events of daily life. And let us keep in mind, in these moments of trial and darkness, all our suffering brothers and sisters, and those who are helping and accompanying them with love and generosity. God bless you.

To Portuguese-speaking viewers, he said:

Amados ouvintes de língua portuguesa, a todos saúdo e convido a viver com a Igreja inteira, em pensamento e de coração, a próxima Semana Santa, que coloca diante dos nossos olhos a Cruz onde Jesus assumiu e suportou toda a tragédia da humanidade. Não podemos esquecer as tragédias dos nossos dias, porque a Paixão do Senhor continua no sofrimento dos homens. Que os vossos corações encontrem, na Cruz de Cristo, apoio e conforto no meio das tribulações da vida; abraçando a Cruz como Ele, com humildade, confiança e abandono filial à vontade de Deus, tereis parte na glória da Ressurreição.

Beloved Portuguese-speaking listeners, I greet and invite you all to live with the whole Church, in thought and in heart, the approaching Holy Week, which places before our eyes the Cross where Jesus assumed and endured the whole tragedy of humanity. We cannot forget the tragedies of our day, because the Passion of the Lord continues in the suffering of mankind. In the midst of the trials of life, may your hearts find support and comfort in the Cross of Christ; embracing the Cross like Him, with humility, trust and filial abandonment to the will of God, you will have a part in the glory of the Resurrection.

To Arabic-speaking viewers, he said:

أحيي جميع المؤمنين الناطقين باللغة العربية، أيها الإخوة والأخوات الأعزاء، لكي نرى الله يجب علينا أن نطهر قلوبنا ونحررها من خطايا الحسد، والغضب، والزيف، والكراهية، والأنانية، وعدم الإيمان... وذلك من خلال ممارسة الصلاة والمحبة والرحمة. ليبارككم الرب جميعا ويحرسكم دائما من الشرير!

I greet all believers who speak Arabic, dear brothers and sisters, in order to see God we must purify our hearts and free them from the sins of envy, anger, falsehood, hatred, selfishness, and unbelief ... and we must do this through the practice of prayer, love and mercy. God bless you and keep you safe from the evil one!

To Polish-speaking viewers, he said:

Serdecznie pozdrawiam Polaków. Bracia i siostry, współczesny człowiek dostrzega znaki śmierci, które na horyzoncie cywilizacji stały się bardziej obecne. Coraz bardziej żyje w lęku, zagrożony w samym rdzeniu swojej egzystencji. Gdy będzie wam trudno, niech myśl wasza biegnie ku Chrystusowi: wiedzcie, że nie jesteście sami. On wam towarzyszy i nigdy nie zawodzi. W tych trudnych dniach, które przeżywamy, zachęcam was do zawierzenia siebie Bożemu Miłosierdziu i wstawiennictwu św. Jana Pawła, w przededniu 15. rocznicy jego śmierci. Z serca wam błogosławię.

I cordially greet the Poles. Brothers and sisters, modern man sees the signs of death that have become more present on the horizon of civilization. He lives more and more in fear, endangered in the very core of his existence. If it is difficult for you, let your thoughts run to Christ: know that you are not alone. He is accompanying you and will never disappoint you. In these difficult days we are going through, I encourage you to entrust yourself to God's Mercy and to the intercession of Saint John Paul, on the eve of the 15th anniversary of his death. I bless you with all my heart.

And to Italian-speaking viewers, he said:

Saluto cordialmente i fedeli di lingua italiana. Il mio pensiero va, in particolare, ai gruppi che da tempo si erano prenotati per essere presenti oggi. Tra questi, i ragazzi della professione di fede della Diocesi di Milano, collegati a questo incontro tramite i mezzi di comunicazione sociale. Cari ragazzi, anche se il vostro pellegrinaggio a Roma è solo virtuale, mi sembra quasi di percepire la vostra gioiosa e rumorosa presenza, resa concreta anche dai tanti messaggi scritti che mi avete inviato: ne avete inviati tanti, e sono belli! Sono belli, belli i messaggi. Grazie tante. Grazie per questa unione con noi. Pregate per me, non dimenticatevi. Vi ringrazio e vi incoraggio a vivere sempre la fede con entusiasmo e a non perdere la speranza in Gesù, l’amico fedele che riempie di felicità la nostra vita, anche nei momenti difficili.

Saluto infine i giovani, i malati, gli anziani e gli sposi novelli. L’ultimo scorcio del tempo quaresimale che stiamo vivendo possa favorire un’adeguata preparazione alla celebrazione della Pasqua, conducendo ciascuno ad una ancor più sentita vicinanza a Cristo. A tutti la mia Benedizione.

I cordially greet the Italian faithful.  My thoughts go, in particular, to the groups who had planned long ago to be here today.  Among these are the young people who have made their profession of faith in the Diocese of Milan, who are connected with us today through social communication.  Dear young people, even if your pilgrimage to Rome is only virtual, I can almost feel your joy and your noisy presence, made concrete also by the many written messages you sent me: you have sent many of them, and they are beautiful! Your messages are beautiful, beautiful. Thank you very much. Thanks for this union with us. Pray for me, don't forget. I thank you and encourage you to always live the faith with enthusiasm and not to lose hope in Jesus, the faithful friend who fills our life with happiness, even in difficult times.

Lastly, I greet the young people, the sick, the elderly and the newlyweds. This last glimpse of the Lenten season we are experiencing may favour an adequate preparation for the celebration of Easter, and leading to an even more keenly-felt closeness to Christ. I bless you all.

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