22nd Sunday - Homily
We had a great first week of school last week. It was a lot of fun meeting so many of the kids - greeting them in the morning as they arrived, being with them on the playground mid-day, and saying goodbye to them at dismissal. I think they did some learning or something in between those times! This will be a good year.
I had the great opportunity to speak with most of the junior high students in their religion class on Wednesday. One of the stories I told them was about St. Maria Goretti who lived in Italy about a hundred years ago. I told them that Maria gave her life to Jesus when she was 11 years old. 11! Maria’s treasure was her purity – she guarded it with her life. One day, a boy who was about 19 came around her way, threatening her purity. She told him, “I rather die clean for Jesus than live one day unclean for him”. So….the boy took her life. Purity and chastity were so important to Maria because she understood they are so important to Christ. And, our kids got it; they are about the same age as she was. They understood that these two virtues are very important at any age.
I often point to this Gospel, Mark chapter seven, to show how important chastity is to Christ. He lists unchastity with the most serious sins; it is right there with murder and adultery! He calls each one of us to chastity, which is purity. Whether we are 11, 31, or 61, whether we are married, priest, nun, or single…we are called to live a clean and pure life in Christ. And, Jesus says it starts with the heart. He says that if our hearts are clean, then it doesn’t matter what the world throws at us, we will live a clean and good life.
The world throws a TON of stuff at us every day, threatening our purity…threatening our chastity. We are bombarded with physical images – especially on TV, in videos and movies. If our hearts are clean, we will employ the use of proper tools to guard our purity. We will have custody of our eyes so that we will have control of what images we look at and take in. If we see things that are impure and not good for us, we look away to something else. We will also have custody of our thoughts; any impure thoughts that enter, we let them go as quickly as they came in. It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it to be “unstained by the world”, as St. James says in the second reading.
It is a lot of work to live in our world with a pure heart, but Jesus promises a great reward. Of all the beatitudes, there is only one that promises the Beatific Vision, something towards which we are all working. Christ says, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they will see God”. They will see God in all of his glory in the Kingdom.
On our own, chastity is impossible. It is the Grace of Christ that makes it (and all things) possible. It is especially the Grace of the Eucharist that helps us to live chastity. We need to make sure that we are not unclean when receiving the Eucharist, as St. Paul tells us. Then, when we receive Him, his Grace changes our hearts so that we will be clean and pure, as his heart is clean and pure. We live according to God’s commandments, and not the world’s commandments.
In time, it becomes Christ who lives purity and chastity through us. It was Him living through St. Maria, it will be Him living through our kids, and through us. We actually share in his purity. We share in his life. We share in his joy. We share in his love. What an awesome invitation that God gives to each one of us: to share in his infinite, unending and pure love.