Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary
August 29, 2021 Cycle B
by Rev. Jose Maria de Sousa Alvim Calado Cortes, F.S.C.E.
Chaplain, Saint John Paul II National Shrine
Sunday Reading Meditations
In today’s Gospel, a group of Pharisees accused the disciples of not washing their hands before meals. They were skipping the rite of purification before eating. The Pharisees charged them not with poor hygiene but with religious laxity. To eat with unwashed hands made them in legally impure.
Jesus answers them by saying that the problem of impurity is not a matter of what is external to man but what is internal. From within people, from their hearts, comes what defiles (cf. Mk 7:18, 14–15, 21–23).
In the Bible, the heart is the center of the person and the source of every decision. The heart manifests itself through deeds.
To be pure or impure of heart is a matter of personal decision.
Everything is pure because God creates everything. Impurity does not come from external things. It comes from the human heart wounded by sin.
The Sixth Beatitude proclaims: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Mk 5:8). Purity is a condition that prepares us for happiness. In the first reading, Moses says: “Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land” (Dt 4:1). Christian purity of heart is a matter of life, of deep possession. It is not something negative, like the rejection of what is human.
To be pure of heart it is not to be a puritan. To be pure of heart is to look at a sunset, flowers blowing in the fields, a beloved beautiful face and see everything as a gift coming from above. As the second reading says: “All good giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (Jas 1:17).
Jesus saw everything as “coming down from the Father of lights.” In the sun rising on the horizon, in the smile of the children coming to him, in the lilies of the field, in the woman crying at his feet, in everything, he saw the Father’s presence. To be pure of heart means to see people and things as Jesus sees them. It is to enter into God’s vision.
We know that we live in a world that is very far away from this vision. We live at a time when it is urgent to recuperate the dignity of the human person, so many times reduced to an object to be used.
Purity of heart is an ideal to be achieved. The human heart needs constant purification.
Psalm 119 says: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping your words. With my whole heart I seek you.”
It is the seeking of God that purifies our hearts. Purity is to keep seeking God’s presence in everything, as Psalm 62 says: “O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where no water is.”
If you want to keep you heart pure, there is only one thing to do: thirst for God, the infinite and fullness. Christian purity is not a matter of already being perfect; it is a matter of being close to Jesus, to seek his face in everything.
Let us ask Our Lady to preserve in us the heart of a child, pure and clean like spring water, a heart able to love as she loved. Amen.