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Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God. —Jesus

You may have noticed that Adrian deLange wrote last week, Jacqui Mignault before that, both following a thread started on Easter Sunday. We are all friends ministering in various ways in Calgary, Alberta. It seemed delightful to try this Eastertide set of reflections together…so get ready for another round.

In round one, we wondered about living out of the resurrection of Jesus, this “mystery that owns us” (Jacqui), this mystery that we are “compulsively drawn to—not to solve it, but to experience it” (Adrian paraphrased).

But once you’ve experienced it, then what? Without solving, without, owning, what’s there to do? Look through the final pages of the four gospels – there’s such diverse responses. When we experience this resurrection life-with-us, we might tremble and flee. Or maybe we will wipe our tears, lean in and cry out “Rabboni!” Might joy overtake our fear? Will our hearts burn within us? Or will our doubt be gently challenged? Maybe…maybe we’ll just go fishing.

But there’s something consistent with all these responses. We have heard about them all. The witness was shared. The stories were told.

Maybe that’s enough: we experience the mystery; we share our story.

Could it be just that?

C. S. Lewis, in The Four Loves, talks about something that has captured my imagination. At one point, he talks about his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Williams. When Williams dies, he wonders if he’ll get “more” of Tolkien. But he gets less. Why less? Because there was something unique about Williams that brought out something unique from Tolkien. And as less gather, less is then drawn out. Less is seen.

But did you catch an inkling of the inverse?

Could it be that as more gather, more is drawn out? More is seen?

It’s that inverse that gets me excited about Revelation 7 – the great multitude gathered around the throne. As Lewis writes, “For every soul, seeing [God] in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest.” What an avalanche of vision as we all share our glimpses!

I loved reading Adrian’s glimpses of Jesus last week. Now imagine getting to hear from a multitude! As Jacqui might say, “Now that’s a revealing invitation!”

But there is one burden I have carried during moments of my life. Will I be able to see God? Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” As a kid growing up in purity culture (sexual purity and moral purity), it seemed obvious to me that being pure of heart was simply out of my reach.

Earlier this year, when I was reflecting on this particular beatitude, I was blessed to discover an old story of Saint Francis:
One day Saint Francis and brother Leo were walking down the road.
Noticing Leo was depressed, Francis turned and asked, “Leo, do you know what it means to be pure of heart?”
“Of course. It means to have no sins, faults or weaknesses to reproach myself for.”
“Ah,” said Francis, “now I understand why you’re depressed. We will always have something to reproach ourselves for.”
“Right,” said Leo. “That’s why I despair of ever arriving at purity of heart.”

“Leo, listen carefully to me. Don’t be so preoccupied with the purity of your heart. Turn and look at Jesus. Admire Him. Rejoice that he is what he is—your Sibling, your Friend, your Lord and Savior. That, little brother, is what it means to be pure of heart…Focus your vision outside yourself, on the beauty, graciousness and compassion of Jesus Christ…It is enough that Jesus is Lord.”

(this story is found in many places; I found this version here)

There’s more to that story, but it has been a balm for my little perfectionist soul.

It has also been an invitation. Could it be that as I centre my own heart more and more on Jesus, his death and resurrection, that my vision will expand? As I focus on the contours of God’s mystery, could it be that I will be blessed to see more of God, even in the world around me?

It makes me think of Jacob naming Peniel: “It is because I saw God face to face…” But only a few verses later, after staring God in the face, he catches a glimpse of that face again as he is embraced by Esau: “For to see your face is like seeing the face of God.” Having wrestled with God, he sees God even more.

Could it be with us? As we wrestle with God, might we see God more? And then, for the love of Jesus and your neighbour, share that glimpse with your community.

Paul Verhoef

After spending childhood years in South Dakota, Ohio, California, Colorado, Iowa, and Michigan, Paul Verhoef was called to Canada in 2004. His acceptance in that foreign land is helped by his marriage to Monique, one of those great Canadians. Paul accepted a call to be the first Christian Reformed Chaplain at the University of Calgary. He still enjoys that calling after almost 18 years. When the Verhoefs moved there, they had one baby. Now their house is filled with the joy and chaos of three teenagers. 

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