Action and Contemplation: Week 1
Becoming Pure in Heart
Wednesday, May 11, 2016
True religion is radical; it cuts to the root (radix is Latin for root). It moves us beyond our “private I” and into full reality. Jesus seems to be saying in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) that our inner attitudes and states are the real sources of our problems. We need to root out the problems at that level. Jesus says not only that you must not kill, but that you must not even harbor hateful anger. He clearly begins with the necessity of a “pure heart” (Matthew 5:8) and knows that the outer behavior will follow. Too often we force the outer and the inner remains like a cancer.
If you walk around with hatred all day, morally you’re just as much a killer as the one who pulls out the gun. We can’t live that way and not be destroyed. Yet, for some reason, many Christians have thought they could think and feel hatred, negativity, and fear. The evil and genocide of World War II was the final result of decades of negative and paranoid thinking among good German Christians.
Jesus tells us to not harbor hateful anger or call people names in our hearts like “fool” or “worthless person” (Matthew 5:22). If we’re walking around all day thinking, “What an idiot he is,” we’re living out of death, not life. If that’s what we think and feel, that’s what we will be—death energy instead of life force. Apparently we cannot afford even inner disconnection from love. How we live in our hearts is our real truth.
In Matthew 5:44, Jesus insists that we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. For Jesus, prayer seems to be a matter of waiting in love, returning to love, trusting that love is the unceasing stream of reality. Prayer isn’t primarily words; it’s a place, an attitude, a stance. That’s why Paul could say, “Pray unceasingly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). If we think of prayer as requiring words, it is surely impossible to pray always. Once we recognize that whatever we do in conscious, loving union with Reality is prayer, we can better understand what Paul means.
Gateway to Silence:
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 1999), 80-82.