It’s all about appearances. As I go through the daily journey of life I find myself caught up in two worlds: the external and the internal.
One view of the world that judges everything by its outward appearance, take blue jeans for instance. The other day I was shopping for with my teenage daughter. We were at the mall at one of those edgy shoe stores. As I was trying on a new pair of shoes, my daughter approached me and told me that she didn’t like them especially since my jeans were too short.
Now I thought I had a sense of what length of my jeans should be, what I hadn’t realized was that the norm had changed and that unless your jeans were touching the floor they were too short. I don’t know who decides what the right color or length for jeans but in the world I live – it’s continually changing and I always seem to be behind the times. I realized that the outward appearance of wearing the right clothes affects how people see us.
In the other world–the internal world– is a little different. Have you ever met someone who just purchased a shiny used car. It looked great on the outside but after driving a few miles came the realization that it hadn’t been cared for very well and was going to need a complete engine overhaul. I’m not saying that the external doesn’t matter. What people see us doing on our road to holiness is important. But at the end of the day and we look in the mirror and we truly look at how we are living–how are we caring for our own souls?
Most of us that work in youth ministry have no problem focusing on the souls of the young people we serve. We want young people to go to Heaven. We spend countless hours coming up with great Life nights, videos and skits all designed to lead teens closer to Christ and hopefully get them into heaven. How much time do we spend caring for our own souls? Or how much care to do we take in regard to our own souls? I know for most of us we can put on a pretty good act – we don’t go to bars or hang out in adult bookstores. Our Facebook page has scripture quotes attached. We go to Mass, we pray the Rosary and people even see us saying grace before meals out in public. But how are we doing internally?
Internal purity is what we need to focus on. We can look the part and have on all the right pieces of armor, but underneath struggling with our thoughts and lack of purity internally. I’ve heard it said, “the battle is within” by some who have journeyed down the road striving for internal purity.
So what is internal purity? Let me explain by example. Have you ever wondered why people are afraid of ghosts in horror movies or why it can be creepy to view a dead body? A big part of this is that ghosts and dead bodies have one thing in common – the body has been separated from the soul. The body is merely a body and has no life separated from a soul. So when we view someone of the opposite sex merely as an object and internally process impure thoughts, what were basically doing is separating their body from their soul. If we were truly caring about their soul, we wouldn’t be thinking what we’re thinking. It’s kind of creepy when you think about it. So internal purity is about keeping our thoughts internally from going to an unholy place.
I will tell you that I struggle with this. I may not say out loud what I’m thinking but internally there is a battle going to keep myself from being critical, judgmental and prideful in my thoughts. It is my prayer that you can’t relate, that somehow you are free from thoughts that are impure.
For those of you that do relate, what I have found that brings me the most strength and resistance to these things is Eucharistic adoration. When I simply come before Jesus in the Eucharist, spending time with him and being filled with his love for me. It is then that the small thoughts and impurities don’t carry as much weight. The more time I spend with our Lord, the more I realize His mercy, His forgiveness and His desire to be in deeper communion with us all. I think one of the most reassuring things for us all is that God is patient with us. If you struggle with internal purity as I do, keep moving, keep working on it and allow Jesus to fill your thoughts with all that is pure.