They Shall See God
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
The man was blind. A thick blackness engulfed everything. His life was an endless reach, feeling, grasping for some comprehension of a world otherwise dark and empty. Then he heard it, a whisper maybe, a murmur in the crowd that Jesus was coming. If anyone could save him it was this man. So he called out. Immediately, the crowd pushed around him.
“He shouted, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet; but he shouted even more loudly, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’” (Luke 18:38-39).
Imagine that you are caught out at sea in a storm. Your boat has shipwrecked. You are tossed into the waves. You begin swimming upwards to catch your breath but just before you reach air the wreckage blocks you and the torrent sucks you down. Finally, your instinct to breathe is so strong you force your way upward and are lifted up on the lifeboat.
The blind man wanted Christ. The louder he cried out, the more the crowds smothered him. “Be quiet.” “Be sensible.” “Who do you think you are.” “Get out of here!” “You are aren’t worthy!” The odds were against this man, but his determination prevailed. “Jesus stood still and ordered the man to be brought to him; and when he came near, he asked him, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ He said, ‘Lord, let me see again.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has saved you’” (v. 40-43).
What would it be like to be in this man’s shoes? Truthfully, we all know. We are that blind man. This is the struggle we go through in our spiritual lives. As soon as God draws near, as soon as we reach out to Him, what happens? A gravity pushes back against us.
What happens when we wake in the morning to say our prayers? First, our heavy eyes and tired body cry out, “Go back to sleep. You need more rest!” You drag your feet to the icon corner and light a candle. Immediately, you remember all the things you need to do. Your brain yells, “You’re too busy. You have too many important obligations. You can pray tomorrow.” Your conscience returns, “No, this is my tithe to God. He comes first.” So you pick up the book and flip to page one. Then your brain fills with stress and worries for the day ahead. You do not feel like paying attention. Your heart is not in it. By God’s grace, something wakes up in your chest. You hear the words, “Be still and know that I am God…” So you determine to force your heart into your prayer and you encounter Christ, in that sweet, quiet chamber in your heart. What a struggle!
What about the Divine Liturgy? You wake up Sunday morning. You probably feel a hangover from the week before. Yet, a sense of obligation drives you forward. A faint hunger for communion gets you out of bed and through those doors. You sit down to pray. What happens? Where do your thoughts go? What distractions arise to taunt you? We struggle through a hundred excuses for not praying. If we are determined, we have every opportunity every Mass to encounter heaven on earth. Yet, it takes an effort. It takes a constant push.
Prayer is war. The scriptures urge us to be deliberate. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Pt. 5:8). “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness…Therefore take up the whole armor of God” (Eph. 6:11-13). We put down our guard. The sun is warm and refreshing so we take off our armor and lie down. Immediately, our spiritual life becomes hazy and sleepy. We find ourselves dragged off into anger, bitterness, apathy...there are no end to the spiritual traps. So we arrive at Lent.
Lent is a time for donning the armor. It is a time for prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Without these vitamins for the soul, we are not even alive. Lent is a time for quiet and stillness. Lent is a time for confession. The Church teaches about confession with one, universal voice. Frequent confession is one of the most important things we can ever do. In his efforts to revive Orthodox spirituality in America, our Metropolitan Joseph has taught continually on confession. He writes:
“As Orthodox Christians, Confession is not an option which we can choose or not choose to do. It is absolutely necessary for our spiritual healing and well-being, and those who think they can go without Confession for long periods of time are setting a trap for themselves that will be evident when they encounter tragedy and loss…[In confession] we eliminate the things in our minds that keep us from God. We become free. The person who rejects Confession also rejects true freedom, preferring the slavery of ‘privacy’…Confession is not merely the reading off of a list of sins, but delving deep into the heart to discover the passions and suffering that drive us to sin. Once found, we can take steps to receive the cure.”
Sadly, the more we avoid confession the less we realize we need it. We grow trapped in our own sleepy delusions, and never know we are sleeping. Lent arrives, with so much compassion and grace, crying out: “Awake, O sleeper, arise from the dead, and Christ will shine upon you" (Eph. 5:14). "Awake, awake, put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments" (Isaiah 52:1).
The pure in heart will see God.
What is purity of heart? It is single-mindedness. The blind man was pure of heart. He knew his goal and nothing would keep him from it. No crying children, no peer pressure from friends, no sleepiness or laziness. He was bombarded with excuses for lying down in his blindness. Instead, he shouted louder. What are your struggles? What is the pain that you carry in your heart? Will we continue to carry it, or will we turn to Christ in His Church? How wonderful must it be to have the veil lifted over one’s eyes, to see the beauty of God.
The blind man called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those around him pressed against him, telling him to be quiet. He called out more, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” So our Lord heard his cry and healed him. How much more will Jesus Christ hear us when we cry to Him? We have the sacraments. We have the Holy Spirit praying within us. Our Lord waits for us to cry out. He waits for us to wake up and offers beautiful garments, a soul with peace and joy. May our Lord and Savior inspire us to push forward in this Lenten Season, so that we may be refreshed with the healing grace of his presence.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.