Thursday, September 22, 2022



Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God.
Matthew 5:3-12

I meet a lot of wonderful people, and without taking anything away from them, every once in a while I get to meet an outstanding living example of how some teaching or another of Jesus is seriously lived-out. Such a person was the woman from the Little Sisters of the Poor whose funeral I celebrated a week or two ago. I have been hearing confessions and helping out with Masses there for a few years. The deceased was a daily Mass attendee who greeted me every time I was there. Her name was Rosemary.

As I was considering what Scripture to preach on, it didn't take me long to land on the Gospel of Matthew's version of the Beatitudes, especially the line that says "Blessed are the pure of heart."

Rosemary, at least in my book, was “pure of heart.” What does “pure of heart” actually mean? When I was young, I used to think that being “pure of heart” meant being free from lustful thoughts, but that’s not what it means! A person who is “pure of heart” has the innocence of a little child. People describe them as uncomplicated, grateful, kind-hearted, accepting, non-judgmental, generous, thoughtful – and always connected to God through prayer.

Well, those words were words actually written to me by her niece about her “Aunt Rosie.” She said that Rosemary was “uncomplicated, grateful, kind-hearted, accepting, attentive, non-judgmental, generous, thoughtful – and always connected to God through prayer.” What she was describing are the qualities of those who are “pure of heart.”

I knew Rosemary was “pure of heart” after the first or second time I met her. She got in the habit of stopping by the sacristy door after Mass to say hello to me. She insisted on whoever was pushing her wheelchair to stop! She did not want to get something from me. She wanted to give me something. She would reach her fragile little hand out and pat my hand and say, “I love you! I am glad you are here!” That, my friends, is what it means to be “pure of heart:” “uncomplicated, grateful, kind-hearted, attentive, non-judgmental, accepting, generous and thoughtful.”

As far as knowing whether she was “always connected to God through prayer” all you had to do was look at all the religious hardware she wore around her neck. First of all, she had more religious medals and pins around her neck than Tonini’s Church Goods sells in a year! Religiously, I knew where she stood with God. Obviously, they were friends! She loved her religious medals like they were her children. She mothered them! They helped her feel the presence of God throughout the day – from morning to night! The metals were not just metal and plastic. They made real spiritual beings come alive for her. They made her feel like she was "surrounded by a cloud of witnesses." She loved to pray, alone and with others, as well as being prayed for!

Religiously, I knew where she stood with God. Obviously, they were friends! When I would give her communion, she was laser-focused on what I was handing her. When I said, “Body of Christ,” I did not get one of those wimpy out-of-the-book, one-word “Amens!” No, she declared in a firm voice, “Yes, we are! Thanks be to God!” Actually, that was quite insightful on her part. I would say “Body of Christ” as I held the host before her eyes. She would respond, “Yes, we are! Thanks be to God!” She was right. We can speak of the “body of Christ” present in the host, but we can also speak of the “body of Christ” present in the people of God gathered in his name.

Many times, I hear people talking about funeral “eulogies.” I don’t give “eulogies, I give “homilies.” What’s the difference? A “eulogy” is about all the wonderful things the dead person did for God. The problem with that is, sometimes people feel that if they can name enough good deeds, they can conclude that the deceased person deserved heaven because they had earned his or her way into heaven.

A homily, on the other hand, is the opposite. It is about the wonderful things God did for the dead person. If that is where the emphasis is placed, then all that is required are expressions of gratitude. A woman who is “pure in heart” is inspired to do the millions of small acts of kindness, not because she is trying to get God to love her, but because she already knows that she is loved by God and just wants to express her gratitude! That realization and that gratitude was at the heart of Rosemary’s life!

Religiously, I knew where she stood with God. Obviously, they were friends! Today, I can imagine Rosemary walking confidently (without her wheelchair) into heaven and Jesus sticking his hand out to pat her hand and saying, “I love you! I am glad you are here!” Two good friends finally meeting in person after all these years – that’s what we celebrate today!

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