Saturday, July 2, 2011

Purity, Destiny, and a Mother's Heart

In today's liturgical feast, the Church draws attention in to the Mother of God with a particular emphasis on her "Immaculate Heart."

The term "Immaculate" refers to Mary's complete freedom from sin from the first moment of her conception. This freedom, of course, has a positive corrolary: her purity. Mary is uniquely attuned to the Wisdom and the will, the goodness and the beauty of God and His loving plan for all creation. The Greek term "Panagia" expresses this.

Then there is, like yesterday with Jesus, the focus on "the Heart." The heart of Mary is that center of faith, love, and contemplation during her earthly journey with her Son, and now in glory it remains the source of her maternal solicitude for each one of us. The Mother of God wants to lead each of us, in the journey of our own lives, to ponder in our hearts and in her Heart the mystery of Christ, who has assumed her love into cooperation with His own mission of salvation, and has given her to each of us as a concrete expression of His love, and as a means of bringing it to us with a particular intimacy. It is fitting that the attainment of our salvation, our destiny, our happiness should involve the living tenderness of the heart of a woman, and the special companionship of her maternal love.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, thank you for being my mother.

Here are some selections from a homily on this feast day by Blessed John Paul II, whose particular love for the Mother of God contributed so much to his exquisite sensibility for the whole greatness of the human vocation:

Today the Church’s Liturgy commemorates the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. We consider Mary, filled with anxiety and concern, as she looks for Jesus, lost during the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. As devout children of Israel, Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem each year for the Feast of Passover. When Jesus was twelve, he went with them for the first time. There the event which we contemplate in the fifth glorious mystery of the Rosary took place, the mystery of the finding in the Temple. Saint Luke describes it touchingly, on the basis of information we may suppose he received from the Mother of Jesus: “Son, why have you treated us so? . . . We have been looking for you anxiously”. Mary, who had carried Jesus beneath her heart and had protected him from Herod by fleeing to Egypt, acknowledges in a very human way her great worry about her Son. She knows that she needs to be present on his journey. She knows that through love and sacrifice she will cooperate with him in the work of Redemption. In this way we enter into the mystery of Mary’s great love for Jesus, that love which embraces with her Immaculate Heart the ineffable Love, the Word of the Eternal Father....

Christ says to us: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). These words bring us to the heart of the Gospel truth about man. Those who seek Jesus will find him, as did Mary and Joseph. This fact sheds light on that great tension present in the life of every human being, namely, the search for God. Yes, man does indeed seek God; he seeks him with his mind, his heart and all his being. Saint Augustine says: “our heart is restless, until it finds its rest in God” (cf. Confessions, I). This restlessness is a creative restlessness. Man seeks God because in him, and only in him, can he find his own fulfilment, the fulfilment of his aspirations to truth, goodness and beauty. “You would not seek me, if you did not already possess me”, wrote Blaise Pascal (Pensées, Sect. VII, No. 555). This means that God himself takes part in this search, wishes us to seek him and creates within us the necessary conditions to be able to find him. Moreover, God himself draws near to us, speaks to us of himself and enables us to know him. Sacred Scripture is a great lesson on the subject of this process of seeking and finding God. It offers us many magnificent images of people who seek God and find him. At the same time, it teaches us how we should draw near to God, what conditions we need to fulfil in order to encounter this God, to know him and to be united with him.

One of these conditions is purity of heart. What does this mean? At this point we touch upon the very essence of man who, by virtue of the grace of the redemption accomplished by Christ, has regained the inner harmony lost in Paradise because of sin. Having a pure heart means being a new person, restored to life in communion with God and with all creation by the redemptive love of Christ, brought back to that communion which is our original destiny.

Purity is first and foremost a gift of God. Christ, by giving himself to man in the Church’s sacraments, comes to dwell in our hearts and enlightens them with the “splendour of truth”. Only the truth which is Jesus Christ is capable of enlightening the reason, purifying the heart and shaping human freedom. Without understanding and free acceptance, faith withers. Man loses sight of the meaning of things and events, and his heart seeks satisfaction where it cannot be found. Purity of heart is thus, above all, purity of faith.

Purity of heart prepares us for the vision of God face to face in the realm of eternal happiness. This is so because already during their earthly life the pure of heart are capable of glimpsing in all creation what comes from God. They are capable in a sense of recognizing the divine value, the divine dimension, the divine beauty of all creation. The Beatitude of the Sermon on the Mount, in a certain way, shows us all the richness and all the beauty of creation, and exhorts us to discover in all things that which has its origin in God and that which leads to him. Consequently the carnal and sensual man must draw back, he must give way to the spiritual man, the spiritualized man. This is a profound process, which involves interior struggle. Sustained by God’s grace, it bears marvellous fruits.

Purity of heart is thus given to man as a task. He must constantly struggle to oppose the forces of evil, those which press upon him from without and those at work within him, and which would distract him from God. And thus there takes place in man’s heart a constant battle for truth and happiness. In order to gain victory in this battle, man must turn to Christ. He is able to win only if he is strengthened by Christ’s power, the power of his Cross and Resurrection. “Create in me a clean heart, O God”, exclaims the Psalmist, conscious of his own weakness, for he knows that to be righteous in God’s eyes human effort alone is not enough....

Let us turn our gaze to the Immaculate Virgin of Nazareth, Mother of Fair Love, who accompanies people of all times on their “pilgrimage of faith” to the house of the Father.... Even the Mother of Jesus, to whom the mystery of Christ’s divine sonship was most fully revealed, had to learn gradually the mystery of the Cross. “Son, why have you treated us so?”, today’s Gospel reports her as saying, “Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously”. And Jesus replies, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” “But they did not understand the saying which he spoke to them” (Lk 2:48-50). For Jesus was speaking to them of his messianic mission.

Before understanding it, man learns “by pain of heart” the meaning of crucified Love. But if, like Mary, “he keeps all these things in his heart” (cf. Lk 2:51) — all that Christ says — and is faithful to God’s call, he will understand at the foot of the Cross the most important thing, namely, that the only true love is love which is united to God, who is Love.

Blessed John Paul II, Homily of June 12, 1999