In my letter to you of this past March, I reflected on our Lenten observance and growth in purity of heart. The discipline which we practiced during the Season of Lent fosters, throughout the Church Year, our more perfect living of the truth about God, ourselves, and the world. That growth manifests itself, above all, in an ever purer love of God and of our neighbor. Today, during the month dedicated to the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, I continue my reflection on purity of heart which finds its source in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In August, I will continue the reflection on purity of heart for which we find the most perfect model in the Immaculate Heart of Mary who is also our great intercessor in pursuing pure and selfless love. In October, I will reflect on purity of heart as it is manifested in the Purest Heart of Saint Joseph, our fatherly guide and protector on the way of purity of heart with its sure destiny of eternal life.
God created man, male and female, in His own words, “in our image, after our likeness” (Gen 1, 26), in order that man and woman, with their distinctive gifts which draw them to union with one another, would be His intimate co-workers in His care of the world (cf. Gen 1, 2-30; 2, 15-24). In fact, according to God’s plan, the love of man and woman in marriage is a participation in Divine Love, the love which unites the Three Persons in One God. God Himself breathed into man’s nostrils “the breath of life” (Gen 2, 7). The Garden of Eden was the home of our First Parents, Adam and Eve, in which they enjoyed the company of God and, at the same time, lived in pure and selfless love of one another.
The purity of their hearts is reflected in the fact that, as the Book of Genesis tells us, “the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed” (Gen 2, 25). Because their hearts were one with the Divine Heart, they looked upon each other with total respect and affection. They did not look at each other as objects for the satisfaction of impure and selfish inclinations. In fact, they did not have such inclinations; their hearts were all pure, and, therefore, they lived, as God had planned for man, in the state of Original Justice. The unity of their hearts with the Divine Heart, the justice by which they lived, was reflected in their obedience to the one command which God had given to Adam: “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Gen 2, 16).
Adam and Eve, created in the image of God, after His likeness, were totally free. Their love of God and their cooperation in His work were not mechanical or forced. The union of their hearts with the Divine Heart led them to be true to their identity as children of God and, therefore, perfectly free in their love of Him and of one another. Satan who hates man, who is, in the words of Our Lord, “a murderer from the beginning” and “a liar, and the father of lies” (Jn 8, 44), tempted our First Parents to betray their freedom, to violate their trust with God their Creator. Satan did not want them to remain free but to become slaves, as he is, to sin and death. He tempted them to sin, to rebel against their identity as children of God, pretending to take the place of God. Sadly, for them and for all of their descendants, including ourselves, they ceded to the temptation, violating the one command which God had given them, violating the relationship of trust with God. Their act of prideful rebellion changed completely their lives. The Book of Genesis tells us: “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons” (Gen 3, 7). They had lost purity of heart, and, therefore, their eyes now looked upon their own bodies with concupiscence and shame. They now suffered the inclination to sin, the sad effect of Original Sin.
Notwithstanding their grievous sin against justice, against their right relationship with God, God never ceased to love man – Adam and Eve – as the only earthly creature whom He had created in His own image, after His own likeness, even as He had made the angels, heavenly creatures, in His own image, according to His likeness. When justice demanded that He expel Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, He immediately promised to send a Savior Who would win for them the grace of victory over their slavery to sin and death, restoring purity to their hearts with its sure promise of eternal life. In what is called the Protoevangelium or the First Gospel, God declared to Satan: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal” (Gen 3, 15).
God renewed the First Promise down the centuries. For instance, through the Prophet Isaiah, He promised that the Savior would be born of a virgin and would be Emmanuel, that is, God-With-Us: “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel” (Is 7, 14). He fulfilled the Promise of the Savior at the Incarnation of God the Son in the womb of Virgin Mary through the overshadowing of God the Holy Spirit. This is the great Mystery of the Redemptive Incarnation, the Virginal Conception and the Birth of God the Son – true God and true man – to die on the cross on Calvary for our eternal salvation. By His Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension, God the Son Incarnate has restored our human nature to friendship with God the Father. He has made our hearts pure in His glorious Sacred Heart, pierced after His death on Calvary to remain ever open to receive us, as He is seated in glory at the right hand of God the Father. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church, teaching about the fundamental virtue of chastity, reminds us, “Jesus came to restore creation to the purity of its origins” (No. 2336). Having accomplished His saving work on Calvary, Our Lord unfailingly continues to invite us to place our hearts into His glorious pierced Heart and to receive therein the grace of purification of sin and animation with Divine Truth and Love.
Having inherited the effects of Original Sin, the rebellion of Adam and Eve against God, we struggle throughout our life to be pure in heart, in accord with Our Lord’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5, 8). The Beatitude, in fact, reminds us, of the particular relationship between the heart and the eye. When our hearts are pure, resting in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we see God at work in our lives and in the world, and we are strengthened to be His co-workers in the world. In my reflection on purity of heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, this coming August, I will reflect further on conscience as the faculty by which our heart sees the truth, in order to act with love.
May your heart rest in the Sacred Heart of Jesus always. Thus may His light reflect in your eyes, the windows of your heart. Thus may you be His co-workers in the world. Thus may you be ever more perfectly free to love God and your neighbor.
Imploring Our Lord, through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, to bless you, your homes, your families, and all your labors, I remain
Yours in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and in the Purest Heart of Saint Joseph,