By: Kimberly Osborne
This beatitude always seemed to draw me. There is something special about purity of heart that makes me desire it. Indeed the promise attached to this beatitude is nothing less than the sight of God…heaven. Yet, even the blessedness of purity of heart seems to draw me almost as strongly as what it promises. This lead me to question “what exactly is purity of heart and what does it look like? No one can see it, so how do I know I am on my way to it?”
Being a lover of words, I naturally started by breaking up purity of heart into it’s two elements: Pure and Heart. I began to ask myself, what is meant by heart. It was not long before the Lord lead me to a scriptural passage:
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ez 36:26
A new heart is what the Lord desires to give me. The heart he will give me will be a heart of flesh and not of stone. Naturally, this heart of flesh will love our Lord with the utmost tenderness and not be hardened to his grace. But something else is required for a heart to be flesh: it is vulnerable (woundable). Stone does not love, but it also does not hurt. Stone protects, guards, makes safe. And I have always wanted to avoid heartache. I built up my walls to protect my heart and in so doing had drawn myself away from my ideal of a pure heart.
I need to regain a true heart, a heart of flesh. To have a heart of flesh, one must leave behind the security and protection that comes from stone. Not only in regard to God, but also in regard to other fallible human beings. If I desire a pure heart, it must be a heart open to all the pain that comes from rejection, sorrow and trials. I cannot be immovable like stone. A pure heart does not guarantee a life of joyful bliss. Indeed, it ensures the exact opposite, but that is the paradox of the Gospel. In the sorrow and rejection, true joy is found. I unwittingly found myself in the beatitude that I wanted to avoid: Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. But that is a topic for another time…
Jesus was meek and humble of heart (Mt 11:29) and assuredly has the purest of hearts. Thus, He gives us the very model of what a pure heart should look like: the Sacred Heart. It is a Heart that is not only vulnerable, but wounded. I knew then that if I truly desired a pure heart, I would be wounded. However, this wounding becomes a source of grace and mercy for others. From Christ’s side poured blood and water, the fountain of life for the Church. He desires to use my heart to draw others in, my woundedness (my weakness) is what He uses to bring others closer to Himself.
Now that I know what a pure HEART would entail, I dove deeper still. It was time to tackle what purity is. Everytime, I think of purity, I cannot help but think of it in terms of being untouched, unsoiled, like a beautiful white statue of the Blessed Mother. But, I already knew from looking at the heart that this state of being “untouched” would not fully lead me to the truth.
So I began to look at other things we call pure besides human beings. Afterall, when we speak of purity among human beings we typically are speaking of sexual purity and as important as this is, I was looking for something deeper, more encompassing, more radical. The first thing that came to mind was water. When I call water pure, or clean, I do not mean that it has not been touched or used. Rather pure water, is nothing else but water: there is no dirt, no chemicals… nothing but water.
Another challenge for me suddenly loomed up. To be pure means to be nothing other than me…fully me…as God made me to be. I am not called to be another St. Therese, another Blessed Mother. What made them pure is that they totally opened themselves to God, allowing Him to reveal themselves as He created them to be: a unique reflection of Himself.
God does not desire an army of clone saints. He creates each person to be unique. If I want to be pure, I must allow myself to be myself (with all the weaknesses and strengths that go along with this).
This is a difficult thing to accept. I began to realize that I not only want to protect myself with stone, I also want to be something other than who I am because this seems somehow safer and easier. To have a pure heart is a two-fold challenge: I must not only be open to rejection, but rejection of me. Any rejection is made that much more potent for anyone who rejects me would be truly rejecting me, not some image of myself that I created and put forward. Yet, God promises us that He will not leave us alone. He promises that if we leave behind the safety of our stony fortress with our facades, that He will be Himself our strength.
Thus, I daily strive to strip away the walls I’ve built and to strip away the false images I have of myself. Each day I sit before the Lord and ask Him how He created me to be. I open myself to this world as a heart of flesh, standing before each person simply as I am. This vulnerability is hard. Too hard to do on my own. And this is why I must rely daily on God to grant me the grace of a Pure Heart.
Kimberly Osborne, a young woman seeking to follow God’s will for her life, is a Catholic University of America student that strives to live her faith in all aspects of her life. She currently works at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine welcoming visitors and pilgrims.