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Purity and Chastity


Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,

The month of August is dedicated to devotion to the Immaculate

Heart of Mary. Let us ask our good Lord and St. Joseph for the grace

to know and understand the Flame of Love of the Immaculate Heart

of Mary and to place our trust in our Blessed Mother’s loving intercession!

This Sunday I share with you a meditation on the importance of Purity

and Chastity. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times

this week:

“True Purity - Cleanness of soul: St. Mark, who wrote his Gospel

primarily for converts from paganism, in various passages explains

for his readers’ benefit the meaning of certain Jewish customs, the

value of coins and so forth, so that they would be better able to understand

Our Lord’s teachings. In the Gospel of today’s Holy Mass

(Mark 7:1-8) he tells us that the Jews, and especially the Pharisees, do

not eat unless they wash their hands, observing the tradition of the

elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat

unless they purify themselves; and there are many other traditions

which the observe, the washing of cups and pots and vessels of

bronze.

These purifications were not done simply for hygienic reasons or out

of politeness; they had in fact a religious significance, symbolizing the

moral purity needed in order to approach God. In Psalm 24, which

was part of the liturgical rite of entry to the Jerusalem sanctuary, it

says: Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in

His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart. (cf. Ps.

24:3-4) Purity of heart appears as a condition for approaching God,

for taking part in His worship and being able to behold His face. But

the Pharisees hadn’t got beyond the purely external level and even

added to the intricacy of the rites while neglecting their fundamental

aspect, namely, cleanness of heart, of which all the rest was merely a

sign and a symbol. (cf. St. John Paul II, General Audience, 10 December 1980)

On this occasion the Scribes and Pharisees who had come to Jerusalem

were surprised that some of Jesus’ disciples ate with hands defiled,

that is, unwashed, and they asked Our Lord: Why do Your disciples

not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with

hands defiled? Our Lord reacted strongly to this empty and formalistic

attitude. You hypocrites, He said, you leave the commandments of

God, and hold fast to the traditions of men. True purity - the clean

hands of Psalm 24 (innocens manibus in Latin) is more meaningful

than washed hands - has to begin with the heart, because from within,

out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder,

adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander,

pride, foolishness. All man’s acts originate in his heart; and if this is

unclean, then the entire person is unclean.

Sensuality, that is, the capital sin of lust, leaves a profound scar on the

soul. However, this is not the only manifestation of impurity: also

included is the inordinate desire for material goods, the attitude that

leads a person to exploit others, to scheming, envy, or animosity; and

also the tendency to think only about oneself to the exclusion of others;

and interior sloth, the origin of daydreams and fantasies which

undermine the presence of God and application at work. Our external

behavior is colored by our internal dispositions. Many external faults

against charity can be traced to feelings of touchiness or irritability

that should have been firmly rejected as soon as they first appeared.

What Jesus rejects is the mentality behind all those prescriptions; by

then they had completely lost their original purpose. Instead, He

teaches us to love that purity of heart whereby we are enabled to see

God in our daily lives. He has told us so very often that He wants to

reign in our feelings, to be with us at all times, to give a new meaning

to everything we do. Let us ask Him to always keep our heart clean of

these disordered tendencies.

Purity in everyday life: The purity of soul that Our Lord asks of

His followers is far from being simply a matter of appearances. We

are not expected to ‘wash’ our hands and plates and leave our heart

unclean. Purity of soul (chastity, in the area of sensuality, and rectitude

in our other feelings and inclinations) has to be really appreciated

and joyfully sought after, basing our effort always on the Grace of

God. This interior cleanness (a necessary element of all love) is the

consequence of a life-long, cheerful and unremitting struggle. The

soul, if it is not to consent to attitudes and thoughts which separate it

from God and from others, needs the help of a daily examination of

conscience; it also needs to have a great love for frequent and worthy

reception of the Sacrament of Penance, whereby God purifies and fills

it with His Grace and the heart is ‘washed’ clean.

Interior purity brings with it a strengthening and growth of love, along

with man’s elevation to the dignity to which he has been called. His

ever greater awareness of this dignity (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dignitatis Humanae, 1) is

in contrast to the great frequency with which he often appears to

abandon it. The human heart continues feeling today those same impulses

that Jesus denounced as the cause and root of impurity: selfishness

in all its forms, malicious intentions, the base motives that so

often inspire man’s conduct. But it seems as if at this moment in history

we are witnessing something (the degradation of human love and

a universal wave of impurity and sensuality) which, because of its

gravity and extension, has not been experienced hitherto. This debasement

of man affects the central core of his being, the very essence

of his personality and, given its world-wide dissemination, has

to be considered an unprecedented historical phenomenon. (J. Orlandis,

The Eight Beatitudes, pp. 114-115)

With the help of Grace, which we can always count on if we don’t

hinder God’s action in our souls, it is our Christian duty to show, with

the example of our lives and with our word, that chastity is essential

for everybody, men and women, adults and adolescents, and that everyone

has to live it according to the conditions of the state to which

God has called them; it is a requirement of love, a dimension of its

interior Truth in man’s heart (St. John Paul II, General Audience, 3

December 1980), and it would not be possible to love God or our

fellow man without it.

A sense of loyalty to our commitment to Christ, the virtue of fortitude,

simple common sense, should all lead us to act intelligently and

to avoid occasions that are injurious to the health of the soul and the

integrity of the spiritual life. We have to safeguard our senses at all

times. If necessary, we should avoid tuning in to certain TV or radio

programs. If the occasion arises, we should refuse to take part in

smutty conversations, or better still, try to raise the tone. In the way

we dress, in personal hygiene, when playing games, we cannot be

careless about decorum and modesty. We cannot be seen in a place

that is unbecoming for a good Christian, even though it is the fashion

or most of our friends go there. At times we may be called upon to

object strongly to indecent behavior, and not have any complexes

about doing so. It is no harm recalling that the word ‘obscene’ comes

from ancient Greek and Roman theatre, and referred to those things

which, because of their very intimate nature, ought not to be performed

on stage, out of respect for the spectators. Even that pagan

civilization, which was otherwise very permissive in its moral standards,

understood that there are some things which are not done in public.

Perhaps at times it will not be easy to live in surroundings that have

lost their Christian outlook. But then, Our Lord never promised us an

easy way, but rather, the Graces necessary to overcome difficulties.

To let oneself be dragged along by what people think, or by fear of

appearing unnatural, and so conforming to a ‘pagan naturalness’,

would be a sign of mediocrity and a lack of personality, and above

all, would show little love for the Master.

Keeping our heart unsullied. The role of frequent Confession:

From the depths of the human heart the Holy Spirit wishes to draw

the source of that new life which little by little transforms our entire

personality. One of the necessary elements in this activity (and at the

same time one of the fruits of the interior life) is the virtue of purity,

and chastity in particular (cf. S. Pinckaers, In Search of Happiness,

pp. 141-142): purity, in English and in other languages, has come to

mean the same things as chastity, although in itself it has a wider

meaning. (cf. St. John Paul II, General Audience, 10 December 1980)

This Christian purity, chastity, has always been one of the Church’s

glories and one of the clearest signs of her holiness. Today too, like

in the time of the early Christians, there are many men and women

who live a life of celibacy or virginity for the sake of the Kingdom of

Heaven (Matt. 19:12) in the middle of the world, though without being

worldly; and there is a great multitude of Christian married couples,

fathers and mothers of families, who live chaste and holy lives

in the married state. Both the one and the other are witnesses to the

same Christian love which matches itself to each one’s vocation, because,

as the Church teaches, marriage and virginity or celibacy are

two ways of expressing and living the one mystery of the covenant of

God with His people. (St. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 16)

All of us, each in the state in which we have been called (single, married, widowed, priest), ask God today to grant us a heart that is noble and clean, full of kindness towards

all mankind and able to draw them all to God; capable of a

limitless goodness for those who come, perhaps bleeding on the inside,

looking for and at times imploring our support to help them stay

afloat. An aspiration that perhaps can help us now, and on many occasions,

is the prayer the Liturgy makes to the Holy Spirit on Pentecost Sunday:

Heal our wounds, our strength renew; On our dryness pour Your

dew; Wash the stains of guilt away. Bend the stubborn heart and

will; Melt the frozen, warm the chill; Guide the steps that go astray.

(cf. Roman Missal, Pentecost Sunday, Sequence)

And together with the petition, an effective resolution to do whatever

is necessary to ensure that our heart is never disfigured, not only by

impure thoughts and desires, but also by not being able to forgive

readily. Let us resolve not to harbor any resentment or grievances

against anybody for any reason; let us try with all our strength to

avoid jealousy and envy, and all those things that stain the soul and

leave it sad and lonely. Let us love the Sacrament of Penance, wherein

our heart is purified ever more and more and is enlarged for doing good.

Whenever we find the going difficult, we can count on the help of our

Mother, the Virgin Mary, who was full of Grace from the first moment

of her [Immaculate] Conception, to teach us how to be strong

and keep our heart clean and full of love for her Son.” (From: In

Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez)

Through the intercession of the Flame of Love of the Immaculate

Heart of Mary, St. Joseph, St. Michael and St. Paul, may God grant us

the grace of being Pure and Chaste disciples of our good Lord!

In Christ through Mary,

Fr. Kasel