“Purity of Intention: Mt 6 and St. Romuald” (6/19/2019)
Fr. Ignatius John Schweitzer, OP
In our Gospel, Jesus focuses on our intention. What is our intention for doing things? Our righteous deeds, our prayer, our fasting, are they done solely for the glory of God and the good of souls? This purity of intention is a key aspect of what is called purity of heart. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” because their intention was always set on God in love.
The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard says, “Purity of Heart is to will one thing,” namely to will God and his will. Purity of heart is to will one thing, to have that purity of intention.
We celebrate the memorial of St Romuald today. He was a hermit who founded an Order of hermits called the Camaldolese. In the States, they have a monastery in California and in Ohio, where I spent a week some years ago. It’s a beautiful way of life.
And one of the things that the hermit way of life strives for is precisely what we heard about in our Gospel today: that purity of intention, that purity of heart. So our prayer over the offerings today will say of Romuald that he was “pure of heart and fervent in charity.” He fulfilled almost literally our Lord’s words, “When you pray, go into your inner room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
But what are we to do, we who cannot go and retire to a hermitage somewhere? Well, we can still find those moments alone, those times of quiet prayer. We can recall God’s presence, turn our whole mind and heart to him, and set our intention wholly on pleasing him. The more we fix our hearts on God, the more we bring that pure intention for God into all our actions.
And if our heart is set entirely on God’s will, then, when things outside of our control happen, we can be at peace. For, our heart is set on God’s will and we surrender to that will as it manifests itself in our lives. Our heart is not set on this or that thing turning out as we would like, as much as it is set on God himself. So we find peace in this purity of intention.
St Romuald once said, “Empty yourself completely. Sit waiting, content with God’s gift, like a little chick tasting and eating nothing but what its mother brings.” That’s a heart set solely on God and his will. That’s a purity of intention and a purity of heart. May we too, like Romuald, empty ourselves completely of what is not of God. And may we sit waiting, content with God’s gift and His will, like a little chick tasting and eating nothing but what its mother brings.