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Center for Action and Contemplation
The Path to Simplicity
The Path to Simplicity

Purity of Heart

Sunday, April 28, 2024

My food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to finish his work. —John 4:34 

I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me. —John 5:30 

My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will. —Matthew 26:39 

Richard Rohr finds a model of simplicity in Jesus’ single-mindedness and purity of heart.  

When we read the above statements, it’s quite clear that Jesus was entirely single-hearted. His life was all about doing the will of the One who sent him, the One he loved above all. To Jesus, it was that simple. As we grow spiritually, our lives become more and more centered and simple. There are only a few things that matter, and eventually really only one. [1] 

As Søren Kierkegaard so beautifully put it, “purity of heart is to will one thing.” [2] No wonder Jesus said that the pure of heart would see God (Matthew 5:8). They alone keep their eyes in one constant and consistent direction, and thus overcome the divisions created by the divided hearts and loyalties which plague the rest of us. [3] 

Like Jesus, my spiritual father Francis of Assisi (1182–1226) was connected to the Source. He truly experienced radical participation in God’s very life. Such practical knowing of his value and true identity allowed Francis to let go of status, privilege, and wealth. Francis knew he was part of God’s plan, connected to creation and other beings, inherently in communion and in love. Francis taught his followers to own nothing so they would not be owned by their possessions. Francis said: 

My brothers! My brothers! God has called me by the way of [humility] and showed me the way of simplicity…. And the Lord told me what He wanted: He wanted me to be a new fool in the world. God did not wish to lead us by any way other than this knowledge. [4] 

If we don’t live from within our own center of connection and communion with God, we’ll go spinning around other things. The goal of all religion is to lead us back to the place where everything is one, to the experience of radical unity with all of humanity and all of creation, and hence to the experience of unity with God, the Great Includer of all. [5]  

When we live in pure consciousness, letting the naked being of all reality touch our own naked being, we experience foundational participation. Out of that plentitude—a sense of satisfaction and inner enoughness—we find it much easier to live simply. We realize we don’t “need” as much. We’ve found our satisfaction at an inner place, at a deeper level inside. We’re able to draw from this abundance and share it freely with others. [6] 

[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, “Life Coming to a Focus,” homily, March 7, 2020. 

[2] Søren Kierkegaard, Upbuilding Discourses in Various Spirits, ed. and trans. by Howard V. Hong, Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993), 24. 

[3] Adapted from Richard Rohr, foreword to Francis and Jesus, by Murray Bodo (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2012), xii–xiii. 

[4] The Assisi Compilation, chap. 18, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, The Founder (New York: New City Press, 2000), 132–133. 

[5] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go, rev. ed. (New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2003), 89.  

[6] Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Great Chain of Being: Simplifying Our Lives (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2007). Available as MP3 audio download. 

Image credit and inspiration: Benjamin Yazza, Untitled (detail), New Mexico, 2023, photo, used with permission. Click here to enlarge image. When we let go of anything other than what is right here, right now, we can fly. 

Story from Our Community:  

As I reflect on Fr. Richard’s ideas on simplicity, I think of a story I heard. When the conductor Arturo Toscanini heard Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, he commented, “semplice ma bene”—simple but good. I have found that simplicity does indeed reflect God—one, true, beautiful, and good. —George M. 

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