Ordinary Time - Week 02b

Holy Purity

(From Conversation with God, Fernandez Carvajal)

Now that the feasts of Christmastide are over, during which we considered mainly the mysteries of Our Lord's hidden life, we can let the liturgy help us contemplate the years of Christ's public life. From the very beginning of his mission we see Christ seeking out his disciples and calling them to his service; this is what Yahweh did in earlier times, as we are reminded by the First Reading, which tells us of the calling of Samuel. The Gospel speaks of that apparently chance meeting of Our Lord with those first three disciples (Peter, James and John), who were later on to become the foundation of his Church.

Following Christ, now as well as then, means giving him our heart, our whole being, our life itself. We can well understand that to follow Christ we need to live holy purity and purify our hearts. Saint Paul tells us in the Second Reading: Keep away from fornication. Your body, you know, is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you since you received him from God. You are not your own property: you have been bought and paid for. That is why you should use your body for the glory of God. No one has ever taught about the dignity of the body in the way that the Church does. Purity is the glory of the human body before God It is the glory of God in the human body.

If we are to follow Christ, chastity, outside or within matrimony, according to each one's state, is absolutely necessary. It demands our personal struggle and effort, together with God's grace. The wounds of original sin in our intellect, our will, our passions and affections did not disappear with the guilt of it when we were baptised. On the contrary those wounds introduced a principle of disorder into our nature; our soul tends to rebel against God in very different ways, and protests against its subjection to the body. Our personal sins stir up the dross left by original sin and open up the wounds which it produced in our souls.

Holy purity, which is part of the virtue of temperance, inclines us readily and joyfully to moderate our use of the generative faculty, according to the light of reason, helped by faith. The opposite is licentiousness, which destroys men's dignity, weakens the will towards good, and dulls the understanding in its yearning to know and love God and many noble human things. Impurity often brings with it the heavy burden of selfishness, and places the victim in situations where violence and cruelty are common. If we do not apply the remedy, it makes us lose any sense of the things of God or of anything transcendental. An impure heart cannot see Christ as he passes by and calls to us; it is blinded to all that really matters.

Acts of renunciation with prohibitions directed at looking, doing, desiring and imagining, although necessary, are not everything with regard to chastity. The essence of chastity is love. It fosters delicacy and tenderness towards God, and respect for people whom it perceives as children of God. Impurity destroys love, even on a human plane, whilst chastity keeps love young in any state in life.

Purity is an indispensable requirement if we are to love at all. Chastity is neither the first nor the most important of the virtues, and a Christian's life cannot be reduced to it alone. Nevertheless, without it there is no charity, and charity is the first virtue, to be able to love God.