Plunge into Purity

Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God.

–Matthew 5:8–


Some years ago, an experienced teaching sister at Immaculate Conception Elementary School in Allentown, Pennsylvania, stood before her second-grade class on the first day of school.  “Boys and girls,” she began, “my name is Sister Assunta.”  With that, she wrote her name on the blackboard in huge letters:  ASSUNTA.  Father John, the parish priest, happened at that very moment to be walking by the open classroom door, and he was just in time to hear and see what came next.  “All right, children,” continued Sister Assunta, “who can tell me what three-letter word you see in my name?”  At once the horrified priest saw a forest of hands spring up from the earnest students.  Does this woman have any idea what she’s doing? he thought to himself.  Before he could do or say anything, Sister had called on a little girl in the front row.  “Sister,” piped the eager pupil, “that’s easy.  I see the word sun:  SUN.”  Father John stood dumbfounded by his own inability to perceive the obvious.  “That’s not the word I saw,” he later admitted when recounting this incident to me.

The lesson is clear.  Those whose hearts are pure can see realities that elude the rest of us.  Well and good!  What about the rest of us who are not so young or innocent?  Is there hope for us?

Father John had an eye-opening experience precisely because he entered a world that was full of innocent goodness.  He came to see a truth that would otherwise have been beyond his powers of perception.  Many of us are like Father John.  We need to be immersed frequently into what is good and wholesome for the simple reason that such regular plunges into purity heighten our ability to perceive.

Think of it this way.  A driver whose windshield is perpetually dirty sees filth wherever he happens to look.  He could be viewing a pristine landscape on a clear day, and all he would see is dirt.  By contrast, a motorist who regularly washes her windshield with clean water sees reality as it truly is—innocence where there really is innocence and filth where there really is filth.  Similarly, we too, when our souls are habitually steeped in evil become altogether incapable of perceiving the good.  Yet when our souls are regularly plunged into the pure and wholesome, we have no difficulty seeing realities that would otherwise lie beyond our ken.  We perceive good where there really happens to be good.  We perceive evil only where, in fact, evil truly exists.

According to Saint Paul, habitual exposure to goodness brings with it more than heightened awareness.  It actually guarantees the very presence of God in us!


For the rest, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever honorable, whatever just, whatever holy, whatever lovable, whatever of good repute, if there be any virtue, if anything worthy of praise, think upon these things.  And what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, these things practice.  And the God of peace will be with you.[1]


So go ahead.  Make a good confession.  Read a wholesome book.  Watch a G-rated movie.  Associate with friends who will encourage your growth in goodness.  In other words, take the plunge into purity!

[1] Philippians 4:8-9.