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Purity of Heart, Singleness of Focus

Simplicity

Purity of Heart, Singleness of Focus
Sunday, June 28, 2020

My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. —John 4:34

I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me. —John 5:30

My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will. —Matthew 26:39

When you read the above statements, it is quite clear that Jesus was entirely single-hearted. His life was all about doing the will of the One who sent him, the One he loved above all. To Jesus, it was that simple.

As Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855) so beautifully put it, “purity of heart is to will one thing.” [1] No wonder Jesus said that the pure of heart would see God (Matthew 5:8). They alone keep their eyes in one constant and consistent direction, and thus overcome the divisions created by the divided hearts and loyalties which plague the rest of us. As we grow spiritually, our lives become more and more centered and simple. There are only a few things that matter, and eventually really only one.

Howard Thurman (1899-1981), the esteemed theologian and spiritual teacher to Martin Luther King, Jr., reached this point of single-hearted focus. The following excerpt from his book Meditations of the Heart reveals how Thurman prayed that God’s will might be done in and through him.

The central element in communion with God is the act of self-surrender. The symbol of my prayer this day is the open heart. It is most natural for me to think of prayer in terms of the open hand. My needs are so great and often so desperate that there seems to be naught besides my own urgency. I must open my heart to God. This will include my own deep urgencies and all the warp and woof of my desiring. These things, deep within, I must trust with the full awareness that more important even than self-realization is the true glorifying of God. Somehow I must make God central to me and in me, over and above the use to which I wish or need to put His energy and His power.

I surrender myself to God without any conditions or reservations. I shall not bargain with [God]. I shall not make my surrender piecemeal but I shall lay bare the very center of me, that all of my very being shall be charged with the creative energy of God. Little by little, or vast area by vast area, my life must be transmuted in the life of God. As this happens, I come into the meaning of true freedom and the burdens that I seemed unable to bear are floated in the current of the life and love of God. [2]

References:
[1] English title often used for one of Kierkegaard’s Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits (1847).

[2] Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart (Beacon Press: 1953, 1981), 174–175.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, foreword to Francis and Jesus, by Murray Bodo (Franciscan Media:2012), xiii; and

Life Coming to a Focus,” Homily (March 7, 2020).

Image credit: Gleaners (detail), Jean-François Millet, 1857, Musée d’Orsay, Paris, France.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The simple soul who each day makes a morning offering of “all the prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day”—and who then acts upon it by accepting unquestioningly and responding lovingly to all the situations of the day as truly sent by God—has perceived with an almost childlike faith the profound truth about the will of God. God’s will for us is clearly revealed in every situation of every day, if only we could learn to view all things as [God] sees them. —Father Walter Ciszek, S. J.
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