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  A Christian Faith Magazine January 2005, Volume 10, Issue 6  
Rev. Paul Check Blessed Are The Pure Of Heart
Rev. Paul Check
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Not unlike a physician, a priest periodically meets a person with heart trouble. In the confessional or in other conversation, the priest learns of the wounds in someone's heart that often result from a failure to love or to be loved in the right way. Sometimes, these wounds are deep and long lasting. Frequently, they are self-inflicted and so to a great extent, avoidable. That makes them all the more tragic.

Perhaps these sentiments were in the Sacred Heart of Our Lord, when on His way into Jerusalem before His Passion, Jesus cried and said, "Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace!" (Lk 19:42) How anxious is Christ to protect us from the effects of the worst heart disease of all: sin. Because of our fallen human nature and tendency to selfishness and because the desire to give and receive love is so strong, the heart is especially vulnerable to the consequences of sin in the realm of human affection.

In the greatest homily ever preached - the Sermon on the Mount - Jesus gave us the Beatitudes. Among them, He said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Mt 5:8) Our Lord refers to a pure heart not simply to warn us against sins against the Sixth and Ninth Commandments, but to tell us of the great reward in store - now and in eternity - for those who love Him with their whole heart.

Saint Thomas
Saint Thomas

If we love something or someone more than God, if we are attached to any sin (even if we don't consider it sinful), then our heart is not pure and our vision of God will be impeded. This is especially the case wherever we find lust, which as St. Thomas said, clouds the mind. In her maternal solicitude for the hearts of her children, the Church warns us against the mortal sins of pornography, masturbation, fornication, adultery, homosexual activity, contraception, and sterilization because these things either foster lust or result from it and so they wound the heart.

The flesh is essentially selfish, even in its legitimate pursuits. All of its pleasures look to itself and not to another. The virtue of purity of heart breaks the selfishness of the flesh, while bringing peace to the heart, by restraining sinful tendencies. I cannot give what I do not have, and if I do not possess a pure heart, I cannot give that heart to anyone else... including the Lord. Is there anyone who does not wish to be loved by a more pure and unselfish heart? But either the appetites of the flesh govern us or - through the virtues and with the grace of God - we govern them, so that we might love more generously, more self-forgetfully.

Yet purity of heart is not merely the absence of sensuality. It is not an unopened rosebud, or something cold or unused, or ignorance of life. It is not something to be "grown out of," but rather something to be "grown in to." It is selflessness born of love, indeed the highest love of all: love of God. Like all virtue, purity is a strength, a power. In fact, it was purity of heart that gave the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John the Evangelist and St. Mary Magdalene the strength to stand at the foot of the Cross when everyone else fled. St. Augustine called St. Mary Magdalene the "arch-virgin", second only to Our Lady in virginal character, because she recovered her purity of heart through her love of Jesus and her contrition. And so she offers abundant hope and help to any who wish to find their way to this beautiful virtue, and thus to a more peaceful and faithful heart for Christ.

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