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The “heart’ refers in the Bible to the whole interiority of human consciousness: compassion, love, courage, understanding, devotion, joy, and sorrow. It is also from the heart that good and evil proceed as Jesus tells us in Mark’s Gospel (7:14-23).

This beatitude is about the virtue of integrity: doing the right thing, doing it consistently, and doing it wholeheartedly. It involves having the courage of one’s convictions and the willingness to be true to one’s values regardless of personal cost.

We see the fullness of this Beatitude in Jesus as he makes his way to Jerusalem for the last time. With “his face set like flint” (Isaiah 50:4-7), he willingly goes into physical danger. Despite being betrayed by one of his own; in spite of Peter’s denials and the temerity of the other apostles – save John – and the rejection of the religious leaders, he moves forward toward the cross.

In his insightful book, “Integrity,” author Stephen Carter suggests that there are three steps to living this virtue:

  1. Discerning what is right and what is wrong, that is, moral reflectiveness.
  2. Acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost.
  3. Saying openly why you are acting in this way, proving that you are not ashamed of your values.

Faced with the possibility of great suffering, Jesus goes apart and prays to God for strength. The author of Hebrews tells us that being single-hearted can be difficult: “In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death…Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered” (5:7-9). His discernment led him to Jerusalem. He acted on the Father’s wishes. And, in front of Pilate he spoke openly of his kingdom.

In my own experience of trying to live a single-hearted life, I have drawn inner strength from Jesus’ journey. I have taken my fears – of rejection, of failure, of the unknown – and placed them in his hands. I have been inspired by these words spoken by St. Paul to the Romans: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Trial, or distress, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword?….I am certain that no creature can separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (8:35-39).

As you reflect on this beatitude, situate it in your present circumstances. Whether you find yourself out of work or struggling in some other way in our present economy, take heart that nothing can separate you either from the love of God.

(March/April 2009 Newsletter)

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