Most Holy Name of Jesus
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, The month of January is dedicated to the Most Holy Name of Jesus: let us reverently pray His Holy Name and make reparation to our good Lord for the many times that His name is spoken in vain and with irreverence! This Sunday we celebrate the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time. I share with you a reflection on Purity: a key to Christian holiness. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week: “Purity and the Christian Life: Holy purity, an indispensable condition for loving God and for the apostolate: 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 (1Sam 3:3-10, 19) 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 (cf. John 1:35-42). 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. St. Paul tells us in the Second Reading (1 Cor 6:13-15, 17-20): 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 (St. John Paul II, General Audience, 18 Mar. 1981). 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 baptized. On the contrary those wounds introduced a principle or 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 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 (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae). 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 (St. J. Escriva, Christ is Passing By, 25). 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 since charity is the first virtue and the one on which all the others are founded, the one in which they find their perfection, the vital importance of purity is clear (J. L. Soria, Loving and Living Chastity, Madrid, 1976). The first Christians, who are told by St. Paul to glorify God in their bodies, were surrounded by a climate of corruption, and many of them came from that environment. Do not be deceived, the Apostle says, neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers... will inherit the Kingdom of God. And such were some of you… St. Paul taught these people that they had to struggle to live this virtue which was held in low esteem, and often despised in that culture. Each one of them had to be a living example of the Faith in Christ that they carried in their hearts and of the spiritual riches that they bore within them. If we are to live this virtue we need good formation. Different spheres in which chastity grows: We must be firmly convinced that holy purity can be lived always, despite the strength of contrary pressures, so long as we use the means that God gives us to win through, and so long as we avoid dangerous occasions. If we are to live this virtue it is absolutely necessary that we have good formation. We must talk about these matters in spiritual direction with finesse and supernatural sensitivity, but clearly and without any ambiguity. In this way we will learn to clarify or correct wrong ideas we may have. Sometimes problems, which have been wrongly qualified as scruples, arise because we have not spoken in depth about them: they are invariably solved when we speak about the objective facts in spiritual direction and in Confession.
A Christian who really wants to follow Christ has to unite purity of soul to purity of body: he must order his affections so that God may occupy the center of his soul at every moment. So the struggle to live this virtue and to grow in it has to be extended to the sphere of the affections, to the custody of the heart, and to all those matters that even indirectly can make it easier or more difficult: for example, mortification of the sight and of the imagination, the inclination to comfort, to reminisce…
In order to fight effectively so as to acquire and perfect this virtue, we must, first of all, be deeply convinced of its value, of its absolute necessity and of the countless fruits that it produces in the interior life and in the apostolate. We have to ask God for this grace, for not all men can receive this precept (Matthew 19:11). Another fundamental condition for the effectiveness of this struggle is humility: anyone who is truly conscious of his own weakness resolutely avoids dangerous occasions; he is sincere and contrite in acknowledging occasions where he has imprudently or even recklessly lowered his guard; he asks for the help he needs; and gratefully recognizes the true worth of his body and of his soul. Perhaps, depending on the epoch or the circumstances, the Christian needs to fight more strenuously in one area, and at other times in a very different one; sensitivity, which may be heightened because we have failed to avoid more or less remote voluntary causes; reading matter, for example, which although not obviously impure may leave a climate of sensuality in our soul; a lack of care in guarding our sight… Other areas related to this virtue of holy purity, and which we need to guard carefully are; the internal senses imagination and memory, which although that may not have rested directly on thoughts against the ninth Commandment, are frequently occasions for temptation. It shows very little generosity towards God if we do not avoid them; custody of the heart, which is made for loving, and in which we must preserve a clean love in accord with our own vocation, and in which God must always occupy the first place. We cannot go around with our heart in our hands, as though we were offering goods for sale (St. J. Escriva, The Way, 146). Related to the guarding of the heart is vanity, that tendency to attract attention to ourselves and to be the center of things. There are, too, certain likes and preferences that are sometimes less well-ordered than they ought to be. The means to conquer: If we are to follow Christ with a clean heart and be an apostle in the midst of the circumstances it has fallen to each of us to live in, we need to practice a series of human and supernatural virtues. These must be founded on the grace which will never fail us if we do all that we are able to, and if we humbly ask for it. Amongst the virtues that help us to live holy purity is that of industriousness; of constant, intense work. Often problems of purity are problems connected with idleness or laziness. We also need courage and fortitude if we are to avoid temptation, without falling into the ingenuous delusion of thinking that a particular thing does no harm; or of foolishly underestimating its danger with false pretexts of age or experience. We need complete sincerity which leads us to tell the whole truth clearly and to be forewarned against the devil that ties the tongue (St. J. Escriva, 236) who tries to deceive us, taking all substance away from sin or temptation, or magnifying it to make us fall into the temptation of being ashamed to speak. Sincerity is absolutely necessary if we are to win through, for without it the soul is bereft of an indispensable help. No means would be sufficient if we did not talk to Our Lord in prayer and in the Blessed Eucharist. There we always find the help we need, the strength that turns our frailty into firmness, the love that fills our heart, created as it was for eternity and always unsatisfied with everything this world has to offer. In the Sacrament of Penance we purify our conscience, receive the specific graces of the Sacrament to win in some particular battle, perhaps a skirmish in which we had been previously overcome, and also the strength that true spiritual direction always gives. If we want to understand love for Jesus Christ as it was understood by the Apostles, the first Christians and the Saints of all times, we have to live this virtue of holy purity; if not, we remain earthbound and unable to understand anything. We turn to Mary, Mater Pulchrae Dilectionis (Sirach 24:24), Mother of Fair Love, because she creates within the soul of a Christian the refinement and filial tenderness which enable this virtue to grow. She will grant us the strong virtue of purity if we turn lovingly and trustingly to her.” (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, St. Joseph, and St. Columbkill, may we grow in the practice of the virtue of purity! In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel