The Pure of Heart
Gospel Reflection for Wednesday, February 7th, 2024
“Do you not realize that everything that goes into a person from the outside cannot defile, since it enters not the heart but the stomach… But what comes out of the man, that is what defiles him.” Mark 7:18-20
Today we find an immensely important message from Our Lord in the Gospel of Mark. He instructs His listeners to look inward instead of outward. For millennia, the Jewish people considered uncleanliness as something that was transferred to the person from outside, for example, through eating unclean food. Thus, they endeavored to remain ritualistically clean by cutting themselves off from the Gentiles. This is seen most directly in the Pharisees who value the letter of the law more than the heart of the law as we have seen before.
Here, Our Lord focuses on the heart. This is just one of many instances where Our Lord appeals to the heart of man as the beginning of our actions. This is because we are fundamentally creatures that are meant to be moved from within. God has created us to be oriented from the heart and, from a scriptural standpoint, that is a reference to the human soul.
Man is created as a body-soul composite meaning that our natural state is to be a person united in body and soul. Both are created by God as good, and they are meant to be united. Both are assumed by Jesus Christ and thus both are redeemed in Him. It is from this understanding that Christ instructs His followers. As a body-soul composite, we can act in one of two ways: either our body can lead our soul into the desires of the flesh, or our soul can lead our bodies to the desires of the spirit.
Christ appeals to the heart of man in both instances in Scripture. In the Gospel of Matthew, he references the body leading the soul into sin:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28
Here, again, Our Lord appeals to the heart. The sin of lust begins in the heart because the person allowed their soul to bow to the disordered desires of the flesh. Through that disorder, the person falls into the sin of lust through the objectification of the other. Lust and other sins come “from within the man, from his heart” as Our Lord says in today’s Gospel.
Likewise, the soul leading the body is also cited in Matthew’s Gospel:
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8
Christ tells us that the outcome of a pure heart, one oriented from within to its final cause, is that it will see God. God has created us to seek Him and to ultimately be united to Him forever in the Beatific Vision. A pure heart, one that is characterized by the soul leading the body to Goodness, is what is required to see God.
Man is meant to be oriented from within, but this can only come through spiritual discipline and self-mastery. For the one who has no self-mastery, they will be enslaved to their passions and their souls will be led away into the base pleasures of this world and ultimately into sin. But for the one who strives for purity of heart, their soul and body will move toward God and He will take them into the Divine to dwell with Him forever, and, as Christ promises, they will see God.