The purity of intention

One of the interesting themes which crops ups in volume of 6 of The Book of Heaven, written by Luisa Piccarreta is purity of intention. Let us have a look at the entry of November 1, 1903:

When the soul does all of her actions for the sole purpose of loving Jesus, she walks always in daylight; it is never nighttime for her. Continuing in my usual state, I found myself outside of myself and I saw myself as a little steamboat; I was all surprised at seeing myself reduced to that shape. In the meantime my adorable Jesus came and told me: “My daughter, the life of man is a steamboat, and just as it is fire alone that allows the steamboat to move, and the more lively and the bigger the fire, the faster it runs, while if the fire is small it moves at a slow pace, and if the fire is extinguished it remains motionless – the same for the soul: if the fire of the love of God is big, it can be said that she flies above all things of the earth, and she always runs and flies toward her center, which is God. If then the fire is small, it can be said that she walks with difficulty, crawling and getting all muddy with everything that is earth. If then it is extinguished, she remains motionless, without the life of God within herself, as though dead to all that is divine. My daughter, when the soul does all of her actions for the sole purpose of loving Me, and wants no other recompense for her work but my love alone, she walks always in daylight – it is never night time for her. Even more, she walks within the sun itself which, almost like steam, surrounds her to let her walk within itself, making her enjoy all the fullness of light. Not only this, but her very actions serve as light for her journey, and increase for her ever new light.”

Purity of intention gives us the power to go on amid the difficulties we might encounter on our way because it is God’s love who is leading us. In his Second Letter to the Corinthians, St Paul affirms: For the love of Christ controls us (2 Cor 5:14). Furthermore, when the person walks in God’s loving light and lives entirely for Him, then s/he herself/himself together with her/his actions become resplendent with God’s light. Jesus told us so when he said: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matt 5:16). Jesus is saying her to Luisa: Her (soul’s) very actions serve as light for her journey, and increase for her ever new light.

Saints also spoke about the purity of inention. For instance, St Peter Julian Eymard said: We must be pure. I do not speak merely of the purity of the senses. We must observe great purity in our will, in our intentions, in all our actions. On the other hand, St Augustine had this to say on the purity of intention: God bestows more consideration on the purity of the intention with which our actions are performed than on the actions themselves.

Pope Francis too spoke on this important subject. In his morning meditation in the Chapel of The Domus Sanctae Marthae, entitled: Why do I follow Jesus? of Monday 5 May 2014, the Holy Father makes the following valid comment: “Why do I follow Jesus? ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves’. Is there vanity in my following of Jesus? Is the desire for power present? Is the desire for money present? It will do us good to examine our hearts and our consciences a little on the need to have a right intention in following Jesus. Do I follow him for his sake alone? This is the journey of holiness. Or do I follow him for his sake but also in order to gain some personal advantage?”

Another very intriguing teaching on the purity of intention comes from the heart of Cardinal Antonio Bacci (1885-1971) who wrote:

Purity of intention consists in doing the will of God in all things from the motive of pure love. We should not be egocentric but theocentric; in other words, we should perform all our actions, not for our own satisfaction but to please God. Since God is our final end, everything should be done for Him. Why are we so often agitated and discontented? It is because, we are looking for success and for the approval of men. If we do not get these, we imagine that we have failed and have accomplished nothing.

Men judge the value of an enterprise by it’s external success and by the amount of work which went into it. It is not so with God. He judges the value of our actions from the sincerity of our desire to please Him ad to prove our love for Him. This is enough for Him;  success is not necessary. If we do everything for the love of God, we shall always be content as the Saints were, whether our projects succeed or fail. We shall have achieved our purpose, if we have pleased God.

Purity of Intention in our actions, is fundamental in the Christian life.
If thy eye be sound,” Jesus Himself tells us, “thy whole body will be full of life.   But, if thy eye be evil, thy whole body will be full of darkness” (Mt 6:22) “Men see those things that appear but the Lord beholds the heart” (1 Kings 16:7).

A man who works solely for the love of God, will have great peace of soul in this life and an everlasting reward in the next. But, if in our actions, we seek our own satisfaction or the praise of men, we shall have already received our reward on earth and cannot expect to receive it in Heaven.   “They have received their reward” (Mt 6:2).

Purity of intention, inspired by the love of God, transforms even our most trivial actions and makes them pleasing to God. Without it, we lose all merit in the sight of God. Do you remember the Gospel incident of the poor widow who offered her last two coins in the Temple? Others were there, offering up large sums of money but she could not have given more. “Amen, I say to you,” said Jesus, “this poor widow has put in more than all those who have been putting into the treasury” (Mk 12:41-44).

Let us make our own the prayer we find at the concluding two verses of Psalm 139 as a great aid for us to ask God to help us have and act according to a pure intention:

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Ps 139:23-24). Amen.

Fr Mario Attard OFM Cap