"Prayer gives us a pure heart and a pure heart can do much…. Keep your heart pure. A pure heart is necessary to see God in each other.” - Mother Teresa
(Scripture Text: Acts 6:8-15)
Stephen, filled with grace and power, was working great wonders and signs among the people. Certain members of the so-called Synagogue of Freedmen, Cyreneans, and Alexandrians, and people from Cilicia and Asia, came forward and debated with Stephen, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they instigated some men to say, “We have heard him speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God.” They stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes, accosted him, seized him, and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They presented false witnesses who testified, “This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law. For we have heard him claim that this Jesus the Nazorean will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.” All those who sat in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Looking and listening objectively is very hard for us humans who tend to see and hear things only through the lenses and hearing aids of our own self-interests, self-pre-occupations, personal concerns, and narrow biases. In our reading today above from Mass, the religious leaders who oppose Stephen cannot hear the grace and power of his words or see his face “like the face of an angel.” This leads them to become murderers, as well as causes them to miss out on the saving mystery of Easter.
So, for us, 2000 years later, how is this scripture passage applicable?
A great way to reflect upon and pray over passages from the Bible is to first examine ourselves. How do we look, listen, and recognize the living Jesus in our everyday lives? What keeps us from seeing, hearing, believing and living the Good News of the Resurrection and, thus, results in us missing out on all the wonders that are part of every moment of our post-Resurrection world? We need to learn to celebrate the “sacrament of the present moment”. How do we do this? The answer is easy, go to confession with a Catholic priest regularly, it only takes ten minutes!
Our sins, whether we realize it or not blind us, they prevent us from truly “seeing” things as they are. That goes for those of us with advanced graduate degrees and for those of us who have high school educations. Remember the words of Jesus in Mathew’s gospel, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see the face of God” (MT 5:8-12).
By going to confession monthly, “our eyes will be open” to reality, not a “perceived reality” projected to us by the media and the culture but reality. God’s grace is real, it is free and it is for everyone: all we need to do is ask for it! I guess the underlying question that first needs to be asked is: Are you humble enough to confess your faults and failures regularly? If you are, you will be absolutely amazed by the way you “see” life around you.
Let us ask the Lord to open our hearts. It is all too easy for our attention to be consumed by the world with all of its attractions - many of which are good and genuinely delightful. But we should always be mindful of God, who stands behind everything that is good and who makes everything possible.