The sixth Beatitude is often translated using "pure" instead of "clean", regardless, the intention is still the same. Jesus isn't concerned about out physical organ, but the place from which we make decisions and see the world. It would make more sense to replace the word "heart" with "soul", because we are being encouraged to strive for a soul that is clean or pure; free from sin.
Wow. That's a tall order, a life free from sin. But Jesus understands the difficulty of our human experience, and rather than asking us to live sin-free, He asks to have a clean heart. A heart with good intentions. This Beatitude, buried in the middle of the rest, is actually the guiding force of all the others! A clean heart enables us to live for God! It empowers us to see beyond our earthly needs and answer God's call each day. A clean heart goes beyond the Jewish tradition of clean and unclear (lepers, certain foods and actions) but deep into the root of the human being.
And that right there is what Jesus's big message really was. It was an invitation for the Jewish people to live their faith beyond the rules they had constructed for themselves and live intentionally. Similarly, Catholics frequently stumble on our own rules too. We have to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days, we must go to confession once a year, we are required to abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent, all the while forgetting the intention behind those actions. Instead of checking religious off of a list, we should focus on our own hearts and simply come to Him, and in doing so, see God.
In Matthew 19: 13-15, we are given a beautiful example of clean hearts, who come to Christ eagerly, not because they have to but because they want to. Read over that short passage today and ask yourself, do you come to Jesus with an open heart and good intention. Or is your faith life a life of checking off boxes and going through the motions, because it is what we "supposed to do"?
When LeAnn first asked me to write my piece on purity my thoughts immediately went to the metal band on my finger. A band so familiar that when I take it off my hand feels bare. A band so familiar that it has become the way for me to know my lefts from my rights (something I still struggle with it). A band so familiar that I often forget it is even there, but I never forget what it symbolizes.
Six years ago, when I was 13, I asked my mom if I could get a purity ring. I was gifted with one that summer and it has not left my finger ever since. On my ring are two words, purity and Psalm 51:10. “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me,” are the words that are illuminated with this piece of jewelry. This verse speaks to me in many ways and much deeper than the usual thoughts of purity rings. Back then my reason for wanting a purity was not uncommon. I wanted something to wear that symbolized the promise I made to myself, but after years of wearing it has become something completely different and even more special.
I do not wear a purity ring for the “holier than thou” feeling. And I do not wear it to avoid certain conversations with men. I wear it for me. I wear my purity ring because I wish to live my life purely for the Lord. Whenever I am in a tough situation, it is the thing I often look to. It doesn’t force me into a wallow of guilt, but instead brings the thought of the Holy Resurrection back to my mind. And after I have these thoughts circling, the decisions I was considering often seem easy. The word pure is defined as “free of any contamination.” And that is precisely what I yearn for my soul to be. My ring does not only represent abstinence or morality, like many people believe, instead it represents the Gospel. This metal band, that has become so second nature to me, is a constant reminder of the life I want to live. A life that is flawless, natural, true, and pure in the eyes of our Savior.
This Advent season we are all preparing our hearts and souls for the birth of Christ. And if there is one thing that Jesus embodies at his birth, it is purity. Jesus came down to Earth for the purest of all reasons, to save us. His intentions were never selfish or close-minded. He never ignored his morals or obligations. And in the end he purely surrendered himself to save us. This attribute is something we must all long for, especially with Christmas happening in less than 5 days. It is so easy for us all to forget the true reason for this holiday and give in to meaningless holiday norms. I am not saying we shouldn’t put up a tree or partake in a gift exchange, I am simply stating that this season we should be looking beyond the superficial reasons and into the purest reason of all, the birth of Jesus.
I believe that purity is one of the most important virtues we can have; pure thoughts, actions, and intentions are absolutely necessary to have a life walking in the light of Christ. Jesus came down to earth in the purest fashion and continued it throughout his whole life. I challenge all of you this busy, ornament-filled season to revert back to the pure and true reason for it. Go to mass on Christmas, say a prayer for Mary on Christmas Eve, and sing happy birthday to Jesus Christmas morning, because if there is anything our Lord wants for Christmas it’s for us all to have a pure heart in him.