The pure in heart

History loses our interest if we sense it is being used to programme us in the present. The past is not allowed to stand on its own feet; it is reduced to being an appendage of a present agenda. But if we can take a past event for a moment “in itself,” it can throw its own light on the present.

Take, for instance, an event that has no conceivable bearing on our situation. About 70 years ago the Germans sent the biggest battleship ever built, Bismarck, into the Atlantic to hunt down enemy merchant and warships. When the British learnt of it they sent the biggest ships they had to confront the giant on the ocean. The British battleship Hood was no match for Bismarck and was blown to pieces and 1,400 lost their lives. There were three survivors.

These are the facts. They do not speak of the feelings of the sailors who faced each other that terrible day. Both sides knew that it was either them or us. There was no escape. Before the war the British and the Germans visited each other’s countries, socialised together and intermarried.

Now they were locked in a conflict where you either killed or were killed. If we have never been in such a situation, can we begin to imagine the feelings of terror and the effort needed overcome these feelings and “do one’s duty”? It is the worst of situations and yet strangely it brings out the best and most noble in human nature. Everything is stripped away and you are left with only life or death.

When Jesus talks of the “poor in spirit who will inherit heaven” and the “pure in heart who will see God” he is talking of those who strip away everything that gets in the way of their relationship with God. When you are staring at the barrel of a huge gun aimed in your direction I suspect it clarifies your thoughts. It is a peak human experience – but peaks only exist because they are the most visible part of the mountain. Peak or intense experiences are the high points of a multitude of other more ordinary ones.

In November each year there is a moment when we remember all those who have died; those who have reached the presence of God and those who – in some mysterious way we don’t understand – are still on the way. But whatever their state they certainly have clarity. Now they know. Now they see. As we remember them and pray for them and with them we recall that we are the same as them. We have had similar experiences – peaks and troughs. In the midst of our many feelings and experiences we search for clarity. If we search for a purity that enables us to see, we are blessed.

Post published in: Faith

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *