Michael Whelan SM
[Job 19:23-27a; Psalm 23; 1Corinthians 13:8-13; Matthew 5:1-9.]
“St. Augustine says that the ‘entire purpose of the Christian life is to awaken the eye of the heart whereby God may be seen’” (Martin Laird and Sheelah Trefle Hidden, The Practice of the Presence of God: Theology as a Way of Life, New York, NY: Routledge, 2017, 103).
“To awaken the eye of the heart”, the heart must change. Change generally means breaking. The heart must be broken in order to see what matters in the end.
This is a great mystery, an uncomfortable mystery, in some ways a scandalous mystery.
It is the mystery of love. The unloving heart cannot be broken. Only the loving heart can be broken. Only love can sustain us so that the breaking does not simply destroy us but truly enables us to see God.
The insights of the rational mind are at best stepping stones towards the infinitely deeper insights of the cleansed heart. However, in its arrogance, the rational mind can blind the eye of the heart. If this happens, we are robbed of what, in the end, makes us fully human.
St Paul’s words are instructive:
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 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”.
But love has two companions – faith and hope. Job, a man of faith and hope, speaks words filled with love and pain and nobility:
“I know that my Redeemer lives … and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God”.
The eye of Jesus’ awakened heart sees beyond the immediate and the obvious to what matters:
“Blessed are the poor … those who mourn … the meek … those who hunger and thirst for righteousness … the pure in heart for they shall see God”
There is nothing about suffering, as such, that enables us to see with the eye of the heart. However, when suffering is met by faith, hope and love, the eye of the heart is awakened. We are enabled to see God as never before.
“Now, faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love”