Pure of Heart

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”(Matthew 5:8)

Sistine Chapel.jpg

Some of the most famous depictions of the creation story according to Genesis are Michelangelo’s frescos that adorn the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The center piece captures the sixth day of creation in which God made Adam. Our Heavenly Father is reaching out to give life to man. Looking only at Adam, shows man lost in the world and yearning for an absolute. However, Adam is not alone. God appears not far off in the distance as some kind of detached deity, but rather he is shown rushing toward man to pour out the love that exists in the Trinity. Coming to know who man is and what his desires are can only be understood correctly in light of his relation to the Father.

Often overlooked in this fresco is the fact that Adam is not the only human present. Underneath the fatherly arm of God is Eve. She is there in the mind of God prior to giving life to Adam. This shows that the creation of Eve was not a mere after thought, but that she is the crowning jewel of all of God’s creations. She, who is the mother of all the living, is gazing out on Adam through God. Likewise, Adam is looking back at her through the Father. Both Adam and Eve only make sense in light of the mystery of God. Without the Lord at the center of their gaze they have no idea who they are or of their call to be with one another. Likewise, without knowing who they are as a son or daughter of the Father, they lose their destiny to image God in the visible world. It is easy to see now why St. John Paul the Great said “It seems that Michelangelo, in his own way, allowed himself to be guided by the evocative words of the Book of Genesis which, as regards the creation of the human being, male and female, reveals: ‘The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame’ (Genesis 2:25). The Sistine Chapel is precisely - if one may say so - the sanctuary of the theology of the human body.”

Through the original sin of Adam and Eve, man became separated from God. However, the felix culpa (happy fault) of our parents made us broken and in need of a savior. Christ humbled himself and took the form of man and entered into the world to be man’s redeemer. Since Christ existed before time and all things were made through him, it is no mistake that when he gives the Sermon on the Mount he relates the Beatitudes to the days of creation. The sixth beatitude states “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”, and the sixth day in Genesis is the creation of man. To be pure of heart does not mean to turn away or against our human nature. We are made in the image and likeness of the Father. When he created us both soul and body, male and female, God did not say that it was good, but very good.

This message that our desires, our bodies, our hearts, our very beings are destined to be the image of the Father in creation may seem like a lost ideal in today’s world. Sadly, there is a competing voice that calls out to you. This voice you hear all too often as it is within you and now all around you. It says “Blessed are the prideful, the lustful, those whose use others as objects, the pitiless, and those who hold onto worldly pleasures.” This contradictory voice seems to make sense in a society where no one sacrifices for true love. The further we believe this lie, the louder the voice of sin becomes and cheers us on, “yes, happy are those who occupy themselves with worldly pursuits.”

Christ calls out to us and offers a very different message. “Blessed are you!” Jesus tells us, “those who are pure of heart, the poor of spirit, the gentle, and the merciful! Blessed are you.” This call of the Savior presents us with a challenge. These two contradictory messages demand that we make a choice. Do we give into the lies and falsehoods of society and live a life full of using people and loving things. Or do we strive day after day to live a life of greatness becoming the person God made us to be. Which path do you choose?

In reality, we do not choose to live a life of purity of heart as if it is some kind of divine rule which will bring us to freedom. Rather, we choose Christ, and Christ alone, who is Perfect Beatitude. We look to him and see what it truly means to be pure of heart. This is why Christ never tells us ‘follow these rules’. He says, “Come, follow me.” Throughout this Earthly journey he never leaves us, and continues to pour out his grace upon us. Whenever we fall and can no longer see God because we have lacked in our purity of heart, we turn to Christ and his love. Frequenting Jesus in the sacraments, especially in reconciliation, is the path back to a pure heart and accepting his love. In joyfully choosing these sacraments you will become the person God created you to be.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love

Have mercy on us.

Luke Powers | Madison Diocese Seminarian 

Lindsay Becher