Pure of Heart, Poor in Spirit

Few things attract me more than conversing about the deep questions of life. Years ago, when I began my RCIA journey into faith, I was blessed to experience one such discussion in our opening class, in which we were invited to ponder and reflect upon the Beatitudes of Jesus, one by one. The question at the heart of that discussion was simple but profound:  What does it mean to be happy? What constitutes real human happiness?  And how do we get to that place of lasting joy? As we tossed the questions back and forth, I felt my mind kindled with zeal.  The discussion allowed us to tap into that restless longing of the human heart for God.

The Beatitudes

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus presents the famous list of Beatitudes, in which He sketches out the path to blessedness. We have all heard these words many times but let us allow them to imprint our minds afresh today. Consider which call to “blessedness,” or happiness, speaks most clearly to you. Which verse strikes the deepest chord?

For me, the call to purity of heart has always captivated me more than any other. “Blessed are the pure of heart,” Jesus tells us, “For they shall see God.”  Could any promise be more tantalizing? Regardless of how muddied our vision may be through sin, still we hunger for the gift of one day beholding He who made us. The beatific vision—that eternal moment of gazing upon God in His glory, face to Face—is what we are made for. Yet how can this happen? What does it mean to be pure of heart?

Pure of Heart

Perhaps the best way to appreciate this virtue is to look upon the face of a child.  Each morning when I go to wake up my one-year-old son, I behold his face gleaming with a wide smile and bright, joyful eyes, and I am shaken out of any thoughts that might be on my mind. For no reason he smiles; his joy is attached to nothing but the simple essence of being alive. Whatever is in him, stirring him to that fresh-faced happiness—that is the pure heart Jesus desires for us; for only then shall we have the eyes to see Him.

Poor in Spirit

If this verse offers the most promising gift, we can balance it with the one which is perhaps most convicting:  Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  This Beatitude strikes a puzzling note of paradox:  for why should the poor in spirit be blessed? Jesus speaks not of those who are materially poor, but those who are spiritually poor. I had always assumed we were meant to aspire to greatness of soul in the spiritual life.  How could spiritual poverty be not only a good thing, but a means to blessedness?

Here, St. Therese lights the path for us with her declaration of the Little Way. With great clarity she saw that the life of the soul rests entirely on one’s littleness, and that joy is to be found precisely in knowing how little one is before the Lord. Or, as Jesus revealed to St. Catherine of Siena in mystical prayer: “You are that which is not, and I am that Which Is.”

It does not come naturally to us to recognize our own poverty. We would much rather gather up the riches of our soul and climb towards greatness. Yet the reality is that we are each very little indeed, the children of our heavenly Father, and we have nothing to give Him but what He has already given us.  Let us ask for the grace of knowing our own poverty, so that we may better turn to the Lord’ s open arms. It is there in that embrace of our poverty that the scales of pride are wiped away, and we see at last with a pure heart.

[Readings: 1 Kgs 17:1-6; Mt 5:1-12]

Radhika Sharda, MD

Radhika Sharda is a practicing physician and a convert to the Catholic faith from a Hindu background. She has written a book of essays on literature, Savour, which may be found on Amazon. She lives in Raleigh, NC, with her three young boys.


  1. Jerry DeMelo Jr on June 10, 2024 at 2:49 pm

    You might notice that all the Beatitude except for the first include the word ‘shall’ indicating a future promise – blessed are those who mourn for they shall be consoled. Only the first contains a present effect – Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs IS the kingdom of God – a present status not a future promise.’

    I also like blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God. If the heavenly promise is the beatific vision, then purity of heart is a significant beatitude, along with Hebrews 12:14 – Strive for peace with all men, and for that holiness without which no one will see God. So the formula is that Purity and Holiness to be in the Divine presence.

    Thanks again for your reflection

    • Radhika Sharda on June 11, 2024 at 2:31 pm

      I love that, Jerry! A present reality versus a future promise. What a gift. Thanks.

  2. Cosmo DiCioccio on June 10, 2024 at 1:53 pm


Leave a Comment