God wants our pure heart

The Holy Gospel is the living and life-giving word of God. One need only submerge himself in this flowing and clear water of holy wisdom in order to experience the evangelical truth

There is an ever present danger of us listening to whatever the Church ahs to say to us with a certain arrogance and carelessness, without a true desire to change anything in our lives. Our lives and our realities are, for the most part, separated from the reality of the Church

The Holy Gospel (Luke 13:10-17) brings all the participants of the events in this story down to earth, among us as we become spectators of a feud between God and men. It is for our edification that the men in the story were filled with shame

Christ, who respected the tradition and the law, was in the synagogue on the Sabbath, praying and teaching the people. A very ill woman happened to be there. She was completely bent over and could not raise her eyes to the heavens for eighteen years. “But when Jesus saw her, He called her to Him and said to her, ‘Woman, you are loosed from your infirmity.’  And He laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight and glorified God.” (Luke 13:12-13

Reflect on this and imagine yourselves in this position. In the midst of talking to the people, Christ made this woman healthy. Her bones creaked together and after eighteen long years she straightened her back and shouted with joy and gratitude, and together with her, all the people

But as always, as in every situation, there is someone who feels the need to raise himself above the others, someone whose heart is incapable of feeling the joy of others. “The ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath; and he said to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which men ought to work, therefore come and be healed on them, and not on the Sabbath day.” (Luke 13-15-16

The Lord has no qualms to pour out the truth in this man’s face, the truth about him and others like him. Christ was not afraid to tell him publicly that he is a liar and a hypocrite. The people immediately sided by Him and His courage and His adversaries were ashamed, “and the multitude rejoiced for all the glorious things that were done by Him.” (Luke 13:17

We can imagine for ourselves how happy the ordinary people were when someone came along who was able to speak he truth to those who wielded power. It was something they themselves would gladly have done had they dared, for everyone was sick and tired of the corrupt ways of the leaders

Our sympathies are with Christ too, and we are all on His side. But let us stop and ask ourselves whether our place is truly at His side? Do we not sometimes do as the formalist lawyer? Do we not sometimes have the same molds, schemes and black-and-white drawers into which we compartmentalize people and events according to our own opinions? Isn’t it true that according to our molded way of thinking the truth is always where we stand? That only those whom we consider good are really good, and those who do not mold into our way can perform miracles, to little or no avail? Even when such people do good, and we cannot deny it, we still try to find some hidden reasons behind their goodness and only when we succeed is our molded conscience appeased

But Christ does not want molds. He wants courage. It is clear in the story: Christ destroys the fetters and chains of the law in the name of a true, living glorification of God. When we look at ourselves honestly we can see that we are deeply rooted in formality and that this prevents us from following Christ courageously and freely. This is why there are so few true Christians among us

The Lord does not want the mechanical movement of lips whispering a prayer. He wants us to cry out to Him from the bottom of our hearts. He does not want us to bow down to Him, but to walk with Him and be with Him. He wants us to converse with Him in our hearts. He does not want our hearts poisoned with evil nor our hands made unclean by sin, while we show ourselves to be very different in front of others. Christ will not tolerate our double and triple realities. “When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil. Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:15-18

Long ago, through His prophet Isaiah, the Lord proclaimed to His people that He cannot be cheated. “Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: Therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among this people, even a marvellous work and a wonder: for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid.” (Isaiah 29:13-14

It is much easier to fulfill all of our responsibilities in a superficial and formal way, to appear in church every Sunday and even give donations, to talk a lot and have the correct opinions on everything, than to be a true follower of Christ. Our tragedy is that even the former are rare among us, not to mention the true Christians. However, all of this does not exclude us from God’s commandment to respect God in the only correct way: “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6

God wants our pure heart. He wants our undefiled hands, not washed with soap and water, but free of all evil deeds. “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, nor sworn deceitfully, he shall receive a blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” (Psalm 24:4-5

We cannot achieve this without the help of God. The prophet David knew this and cried out to Him to create in him a pure heart and to renew an upright spirit in him.” (Psalm 51:10) We must understand this and do the same

The only true cleanliness is inside, because the true life happens within. Our deeds pour out from within. Some of us have stronger defence mechanisms and manage to keep the inside under lock and key for a longer time, but sooner or later a torrent of evil will break out from within him. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.” (Mark 7:21-23) For this reason the Apostle calls us to draw near to God in order that He may draw near to us. “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8

Let us listen to his words we all have a reason to listen to him. Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God,” (2 Corinthians 7:1) so that God who sees the dark depths of our souls will find us pure and undefiled and that He may include us among the pure and undefiled in His Heavenly Kingdom.