January 2019

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Stories Seldom Heard Archive

Stories Seldom Heard

234th   Edition

January 2019

Matthew 5:8



"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”


May this New Year be filled with Beatitude Blessings!  Welcome to Stories Seldom Heard.  I would especially like to welcome those who attended the retreat at St. Hilary Parish, Tiburon, CA.


One of the ways of reflecting on a passage of scripture is to refer to other passages that have a similar theme.  A handy book, the Concordance to the Bible, helps us find, in a variety of places, where a specific word or passage in the Bible is used.  Since most of us hesitate when someone asks us where a particular passage can be found in the bible, this useful and uncomplicated book can be of great service (1).  With this as a background, I looked up the word “see” in the Concordance.  Not surprisingly, there were more than three columns of references.  In fact, one of the references to “see/seeing” comes close on the heels of Matthew’s beatitudes.  “You are the light of the world…In the same way your light must shine in the sight of all so that seeing your good work, they may give praise to God” (Mt 5:14-16).


Sight is important whether we are talking about eyesight and clear vision or discussing insight and inner wisdom. Both physical and spiritual blindness are described in the gospels.  In each case there is a particular focus. One previously blind man, since his vision is not totally clear at first, says, “I see men like trees walking” (Mk. 8:24). It is only later that he comes to a fuller vision.  Other people are healed immediately and follow Jesus on the road (Mk 10:50).  This beatitude, "Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” plays with both these understandings.  Some just receive their sight.  Those who are pure of heart gain not only their vision and insight, but also a blessing: they shall see God. 


The blessing, however, of seeing God, is not just for a future time.  Sight comes now to those who strive to be pure of heart.  They recognize what is important and strive to live their lives with integrity.  In other words, they desire to be single hearted.  In everything they do, they will one thing: to live in right relationship with self, others, creation and God.  Persons who are pure of heart strive to be transparent so that their motives match their actions.  They know why they do what they do. 


A couple of days ago, December 29th, was the feast of St. Thomas Becket  (Archbishop and Martyr 1118-1170).  As you might remember, Thomas was born in England of a wealthy family.  He became very good friends with King Henry II.  As a sign of their friendship Henry named Thomas his chancellor: the second most powerful position in England.  Later the King insisted on Thomas becoming the Archbishop of Canterbury.  In that position Thomas not only grew ever more independent from the King, but also challenged the King’s ultimate authority when it came to church matters.  As a result, the King exiled Thomas.  Later after Thomas had returned to England, while Thomas was preparing for evening prayer in the cathedral, the king’s knights killed Thomas with their swords and scattered his brains on the stone floor.  The timing of his death might have been a surprise to Thomas, but he clearly knew this was to be his fate.  No one opposes a powerful, lawless person or government without reprisal.  Thomas had suffered much at the hands of Henry, but Thomas also knew he would/could not change his course.  In T.S. Eliot’s well-known play, Murder in the Cathedral, Thomas anticipating his death says, “The last temptation is the greatest treason: to do the right deed for the wrong reason.”


Thomas follows this comment with a brief reflection on his life.  He recalls the time when he was a layman and the King’s best friend.  “Thirty years ago, I searched all the ways that led to pleasure, advancement and praise.”  As Thomas lists his worldly desires, military successes, earthly accomplishments and the power he enjoyed, he also reflects on how ambition enters our lives almost unnoticed.  “Ambition comes when early force is spent and when we find no longer all things possible.  Ambition comes behind and unobservable.  Sin grows with doing good.”  Then Thomas focuses on his present life as the Archbishop.  “Servant of God has chance of greater sin and sorrow, than the man who serves the king.  For those who serve the greater cause may make the cause serve them, still doing right: and striving with political men may make the cause political, not by what they do but by what they are.” 


Thomas’ words are a warning to us especially in our modern-day society.  They remind us of the cost of integrity: one whose motives and actions are bound together with justice and love. His words, also, remind us of the deep joy that comes with believing in and following our good intentions to their conclusions.  Each of us is called to actively resist evil wherever we encounter it.  Whether we are in weighty positions of authority, offering corporal works of mercy in our local neighborhoods, actively lobbying for justice in the political arena or publicly challenging the lies we hear in the media, the cost will be felt.  Some people will question our motives, accuse us of being naïve or even threaten us with physical harm or loss of employment. 


We, however, who listen to the Word of God, pray for guidance and purity of intention, also have a deep conviction that God is refining our hearts and sharpening our eyes as we strive to discern what is just according to our circumstances.  When we act on behalf of the common good, it is not for the glory or praise of others, but because we see all life as valuable.  We serve at homeless or low-income senior centers even though it means another night out. We purchase special foods and prepare them carefully because we know those women, men and children are truly part of our family. Hundreds of people have arrived at the border crossings to be of service to the refugees crossing into the United States.  Our physical, financial and spiritual presence at the border is not only our religious obligation, but our civic duty to protect the most vulnerable (2). We visit prisoners and pursue affordable healthcare for all.  We support and make friends with people in nations who are distressed.  We conscientiously buy locally and continue to lessen and recycle our debris.  We pray daily so our hearts will not become indifferent to the suffering of those we meet on the streets of our cities because we know that true prayer leads us in the way of compassion. 


In short, we know that singing “Glory to God in the highest” is a commitment to not only serve as Eucharistic ministers, lectors and those in our parish communities, but also to serve the most vulnerable in our society.     


“Blessed are the pure of heart” has been called the mystic’s beatitude.  Mystics are not a rare breed.  They are us as we strive for clearer vision and guidance so that “Love and faithfulness will meet each other; justice and peace will kiss” (Ps. 85:10).  Jesus said, “Happy are your eyes because they see…(Mt. 13:16), but this seeing takes a movement of the Spirit.  Annie Dillard says it this way:  “At a certain point you say to the woods, to the sea, to the mountains, the world, now I am ready.  Now I will stop and be wholly attentive.  You open yourself and wait, listening….”  I wonder what we might see if we made time and space to ponder the mysteries of all creation: the galaxies, universes, and our individual lives.  Would this vision open our hearts too?


1.     With your Christmas money you might want to buy a Concordance to the Bible as an Epiphany present for yourself.  One way to read the Bible and meditate on the verses is to choose a word, such as “see” and reflect on how it is used in the many diverse passages in scripture. 

2.     After reading about the tragedy at the border a friend collected $415 to send to Annunciation House, 1003 E San Antonio, El Paso, Texas, 79901.

Special thanks to Mary Ellen Green and Maria Hetherton who have helped in editing this article.  "Stories Seldom Heard" is a monthly article written by Sister Patricia Bruno, O.P.  Sister is a Dominican Sister of San Rafael, California.  This service is offered to the Christian community to enrich one's personal and spiritual life.  The articles can be used for individual or group reflection. 

If you would like to support this ministry, please send your contributions to: Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, c/o Sister Patricia Bruno, O.P., 2517 Pine Street, San Francisco, CA  94115  Thank you.

To make changes or remove your name from “Stories Seldom Heard” mailing list, please contact me at   Thank you. Bob McGrath    

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