Blessed are the Pure of Heart

Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God (Matthew 5:18). Pope Francis notes: This Beatitude speaks of those whose hearts are simple, pure and undefiled, for a heart capable of love admits nothing that might harm, weaken or endanger that love. The Bible uses the heart to describe our real intentions, the things we truly seek and desire, apart from all appearances. “Man sees the appearance, but the Lord looks into the heart” (Gaudete et Exsultate 83, quoting 1 Samuel 16:7).

The heart is meant for love, which makes the heart simple, admitting nothing that would tarnish or diminish that love. “Guard your heart with all vigilance” (Proverbs 4:23), for, as our Lord says: what proceeds from the heart is what defiles a person, for from the heart come murder, theft, false witness, and other evil deeds (see Matthew 15:18-19).

A pure heart is directed toward one’s true love, free of sinful attachments to creatures and is absolutely necessary to be able to love and to experience God’s love in heaven. “Pure in heart refers to those who have attuned their intellects and wills to the demands of God’s holiness…” (CCC 2518). Such persons can see their bodies, and those of others, as temples of the Holy Spirit. Since the passions and temptations can be so strong and many, purity of heart is a real struggle, a holy “battle,” an affirmation of love for an upright and undivided heart, with pure intentions and pure vision (see CCC 2520).

Man is called to love. We only truly find ourselves through the sincere gift of ourselves in love. To live this kind of life-long and life-giving love we need the virtue of chastity.

What is chastity? Chastity means the positive integration of sexuality within the person. Sexuality becomes truly human when it is integrated in a correct way into the relationship of one person to another. Chastity is a moral virtue, a gift of God, a grace, and a fruit of the Holy Spirit (CCCC 488).

What is involved in the virtue of chastity? The virtue of chastity involves an apprenticeship in self-mastery as an expression of human freedom directed towards self-giving. An integral and continuing formation, which is brought about in stages, is necessary to achieve this goal (CCCC 489).

The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy… “Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward to his goal by freely choosing what is good and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suited to this end” (CCC 2339).

This harmony of one’s body and soul fully integrates sexuality within the person; while challenging, chastity is not a “sad,” burdensome, or negative virtue, consisting in a bunch of don’ts, but is an affirmation of love, a triumph of man over his tendency to act like a “beast.” Chastity is directed toward real love—both natural human love and supernatural love for God.

To acquire purity of heart we need the virtue of temperance, which moderates desires for food, drink, rest, and sex, enabling the heart to resist temptation and to direct our desires to the ultimate good. Temperance includes guarding the eyes so that others don’t dominate us; modesty respects our human dignity, avoiding provocative dress and speech that draws attention to ourselves as objects. We also need courage to help us flee temptation and occasions of sin (places, situations, media, etc.) so as to keep our heart safe and pure.

Keeping up our prayer life (our good relationship with God) is essential, especially frequent Mass and Communion, sincerity in our confession and spiritual direction, mortification (self-denial), reparation, acts of contrition, and devotion to Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, “her most chaste spouse,” and to our Guardian Angel. Find opportunities to serve others and forget about oneself helps us grow in purity of heart.

Let’s keep our eyes on the goal. When tempted, ask: “What is this compared to heaven?” or “Is this worthy of Jesus Christ?”

Father John Waiss is the pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church in Chicago, Illinois. He is also a member of Opus Dei, the prelature founded by St. Josemaria Escriva.