Single-Minded Focus

Philippians 3:3-8a

In the First Reading, Paul says, "Whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ.  More than that" he says, "I even consider everything a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." This passage, and both of our readings, in total, draw us to the importance of having a single minded focus on that which is most important, knowing Jesus as our Lord.  Apart from that reality (of knowing Jesus as our Lord), Paul says that all his accomplishments are by contrast, insignificant.


This single-minded focus we are called to reminds me of the message we received here in a parish mission years ago led by Fr Ron Hoye. The theme of the mission was, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” What is the main thing? Our relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything else in life, as he described, flows from that main thing.


The extent to which we can call ourselves disciples correlates to the extent to which we focus on our love of Christ first, and then what comes as a by-product, is our love for others.


I was reading a reflection that made a reference to the philosopher, Soren Kierkgaard, and his devotional that was entitled, "Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing." In the book, he evaluates what it means to will one thing, and the many barriers to willing one thing.  Jesus told us, if you recall, in this weekend’s Gospel that the law is fulfilled in one commandment: Love God and then love neighbor.


To help define purity of heart further, Kierkegaard used the illustration of a man who is courting a wealthy woman. The double-minded man, the man who does not will only one thing, is pleased by the fact that his marriage to the woman will result in financial gain. He allows his love for the woman to be tainted by her situation and the financial gain which will come to him as a result.


By contrast, another man, this one with a pure heart, who courts the wealthy woman and wills only one thing, hates any financial gain he may come to acquire by his marriage to the woman. The man actually has a disdain for the woman's wealth, not out of jealousy or feelings of contempt for the woman, but for the opposite reason.  He has contempt for the woman's wealth because it presents the possibility of his love for her losing its purity.


He wants only to love the woman, and he wants nothing to get in the way of that.  The man with the pure heart acts in a way which eliminates other possible competitors for his love.


God desires from us- love from a pure heart.  We can only love God with a pure heart if we will just one thing - that is, to seek him completely.  Our hearts, if not willing to love God over all things, will love many things as a substitute. Those many things we will as a substitute for God, are not eternal or infinite, they are temporary, and they are failing.


I believe Jesus is describing the single minded focus of a pure heart in the Gospel as he speaks of the man in search of the lost sheep.  If you notice, when he sets out to find the lost sheep, there was no timeline assigned.  He didn't say, "I'm gonna allocate one hour to look for the sheep because I've got other things to attend to."  No, he goes after the sheep until he finds it. And when he does, he rejoices, out of love.

No matter what we pray for, no matter what we ask for, our hearts must in truth be still only willing- one thing. Though we utter prayers for material provision, for the love of a spouse, for security, or (how about) for the success of a political candidate or sports team, we must still, in truth, will only one thing.  I believe that in this we can both gain instruction and take comfort today.  

Those with a pure heart will have their reward. Their reward will not be any kind of gain other than that one thing.  The man with the pure heart who marries the wealthy woman seeking no reward at all other than the love of that woman, ends up gaining the ultimate reward, a perfect union with her. 


And it’s the same for us, as we seek one thing, to know the Lord, we do so with the hope of being rewarded one day, of being made worthy of eternal life in the kingdom of heaven!


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