I shared on twitter last Wednesday how struck I was by the second reading in the Office of Readings. Just as a short clarifier, the Office of Readings is one of five daily prayers that belong to what is called the Liturgy of the Hours which is a set of prayers that are sung, chanted, recited, and meditated upon throughout the day.
The Second reading was from an ancient document entitled “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” or sometimes better known as the Didache. What struck me I think is the requirement for purity before receiving the Sacraments, particularly the Eucharist.
Often times I think we get hung-up on the idea of purity. Mostly because it is most commonly associated with ‘purity talks’ where hundreds of nervous teens are packed into a gym and talked to like they’ve never considered intimate relationships before. Or in even more bizarre instances promise ceremonies in which a daughter will promise purity to their father before marriage.
Purity, in many respects, denotes freedom and doesn’t relate exclusively to sexuality. Purity is something that is bigger then just one component of your physiology it is a way of life. Living by God’s freedom not out of repression as is exampled above, but out of holistic integration of the law of God in daily life.
Which is why the Lord says very clearly, “Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” We reconcile to our brother, we reconcile to God before offering ourselves because in order to offer ourselves we must be free to make that gift. Try to give away your car or your house on which you still owe money to the bank for; the collectors will come and look for you or whomever you have given it to. Our spiritual offerings, though inherently valuable by virtue of God’s love for us become even more effective with our effort in love and humility freeing ourselves, with the help of God’s grace, from wrongdoing.
Which is to say that one can be impure or have an impure intention by wishing ill on others while pretending to love God as they receive him in the Eucharist. If one were truly to love God, they would firstly love their neighbor; they would even love their enemy and wish good on them. Understandably, this can reach any aspect of our person, whether that be applied to our sexuality, our capacity for malice or hate, how we treat others, or even how we make use of our time each day.
A prime example of the difference between repression vs. integration is the 'purity talk' vs. talking about real life dating and how to discern a vocation to Marriage. Integration calls us toward something; it asks us to do something genuine for someone else. Repression prohibits; it asks us to think of ourselves and how we might preserve ourselves. It takes little imagination how spiritually damaging this can be, and how easy it makes it to throw out Church teaching which is really the freeing teachings of Jesus himself.
We don’t of course have to be perfect for God to love us but our hearts must be ready to reconcile in order to give ourselves fully to God and to others. God prefers an open heart to a closed heart. As it says in James: “Be doers of the word not hearers only… But the one who peers into the perfect law of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does.”
Practically speaking, forgive those who ask your forgiveness. Give the benefit of the doubt. Ask forgiveness for wrongs committed to others. As we would ask forgiveness of a brother or sister, ask forgiveness of God by going to reconciliation. All of this ideally before going to Mass. Sure, there is a minimal Church Law requirement of being free from mortal sin before receiving the Eucharist; but what is the heart of this teaching? It is to be free to give yourself fully to God. Do you feel free? Are you reconciled with your sister or brother? God Loves you unconditionally yet: are you reconciled to God, that your offering might be effective? “My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a contrite, humbled heart, O God, you will not scorn.”
 Mat. 5:23-24
 James 1:22, 25
 Psalm 51:19
"In the solitude and silence of the wilderness..., for their labor in the contest, God gives his athletes the reward they desire: a peace that the world does not know and joy in the Holy Spirit."
Husband & father of four, graduate from Quincy University and currently a grad student at Franciscan University. Director of Faith Formation & Youth Ministry for All Saints Parish since January 2012.