Purity – What It Is, What It Isn’t and Why You Should Care

This month’s virtue challenge is purity and I can already hear some of you groaning. Why does it
have to be purity?

I mean, I get it. There’s a whole purity culture out there dedicated to being chaste before marriage
which, in and of itself is not a bad thing, however it has become difficult for us to mention the virtue
of purity without automatically thinking about sexual morality.

Rest assured, this challenge is not limited to, or even directly referring to, sexual purity. Purity
encompasses much more than that. Jesus tells us: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see
God.” (Matthew 5:8).

Notice he said pure in heart, not pure of body.

Bible references to the heart encapsulate the whole person; the inner core and essence of each
individual. In the Gospel accounts, Jesus explains that sin – and sinful actions – come from within our
heart: “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For out of the
abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.   The good person brings good things out of a good
treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure.” (Matthew 12: 35-36)
In other words, Jesus was telling the people of His day that they were snakes! They gave the
appearance of good but they were wicked on the inside, which means they produce wicked

It’s one of those more provocative scenes in Matthew’s account. And it makes us contemplate
whether we are producing good or evil treasure. The truth is most of us are not evil. But we’re also
not completely good. So where does that leave us?

On the surface our actions may appear perfectly fine, but are our motives pure? Really? Jesus was
little impressed with those who appeared to uphold the letter of the Mosaic Law but were empty
inside: “You hypocrites! Isaiah prophesied rightly about you when he said: ‘This people honors me
with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’.” (Matthew 15: 7-8)

This is a good question to ask of ourselves: am I honouring God from my very core or am I just paying
Him lip service?

There is a myriad of definitions of purity. The most helpful definition I have come across is this:
purity is freedom from sin or evil.

When our hearts are tainted by sin, they are no longer pure, and it follows that our actions are not
either. In His ministry Jesus often used the term ‘hard of heart’ to demonstrate this reality. Those who are mired in sin have hearts that have been hardened by their impurity. They can no longer see the truth because they are slaves to sin.

In other words, if we allow evil to take root in our hearts it becomes harder to make good decisions.
Conversely it becomes easier to make less than good decisions. A pure heart leads us to freedom
and an impure heart leads us to slavery. A pure heart leads us closer to Christ, an impure heart leads
us far from Him. And no, there is no middle ground.

We have a choice then: either freedom from, or slavery to, sin.

This month focus on your ‘heart’ health. Our Divine Physician has the cure and the long-term
management plan. High on that list of practical ways you can manage your heart is making frequent
use of the Sacrament of Confession and receiving Our Lord worthily in the Eucharist. Confessing your
sins and receiving absolution frees you from sin, and receiving Communion regularly makes you
more Christ-like. And His Sacred Heart is free from sin and hardness.

A regular, daily, examen will help highlight areas in your life where your motives are not as pure as
you might like. But don’t be discouraged, focus on strengthening your virtuous muscle this month,
recognising the life-long goal of becoming pure in heart.

Additionally, seeking advice from a spiritual director, or counselling professional, might just shed
some light on the places in which your heart isn’t as pure as you’d prefer.

VM Writer and Graphic Designer. Wife of one, mother of 8. Tackling growth in virtue one (baby) step at a time.

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