Poor In Spirit (Beatitudes Part I)

Today, We will begin a journey through some reflections on the Beatitudes, from the Sermon on the Mount.
The beatitudes found in the Gospel of Matthew are considered a tour de force of an examination of conscience, and of where we are in the course of our spiritual lives as a whole.
In the words of St. Francis, ” Let us begin to do good, for up to now we have done nothing”.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Volumes have been written, and fights and divisions have occured over the ideas of what is being poor, our Lady Poverty.
Since the time of Christ there have been arguments about what it means to be poor.   Indeed, there are seveal versions of poverty.  There is material poverty, financial poverty, spiritual poverty, and possibly the subsets of emotional, moral, and ethical poverty.
So how does this all work ?  What is being poor in spirit ?   How poor is poor ?  Is there really a way that we can get to a true spiritual poverty or is that just a goal to shoot for ?
There are one or two shining examples through the course of human history that have come about as the purest examples of poverty of spirit recorded.  Those would have been of course Our Lord, St. Francis, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Obviously, Francis and Teresa patterned their manner of poverty after the Lord in the example of extreme poverty and humility.
It might be “easy” to say well, Jesus was God, and how could we hope to ascend to the level of poverty of spirit that he gave as a path for us to follow ?  Well that is where the examples of Francis and Teresa of Calcutta come to light.
Let us take a look at some of the examples that Our Lord gave us during his life.  Even his birth was a point of spiritual poverty.  The Lord, God, King of Kings, and omnipotent over all deigned to be born of a poor and humble girl.  He was born into a family where the father had a blue collar skill, and in a stable, a barn, a place where the animals lived.   He subjugated Himself to his parents, to the life they lived.  For 30 years He spent his time in quite, sharing God with all he met.
He began a ministry and chose His disciples from among those who were poor and sinful.   He chose to work with those who were spiritually bankrupt, and morally challenged.    Prostitutes, Tax collectors, and the sick, all of whom were at the bottom of society.  He also worked with Rabbi’s teachers, scholars, and priests and tried to teach them.
Jesus for the last years of his life was homeless.  He told them ( Luke 9:58) that the Foxes have dens and the birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man has no where to lay His head.
He told us that we should be humble in the face of our enemies and even serve them.  (Romans 12:20) .  “If your enemy is hungry give him some food”… or (Matthew 5:29) If someone strikes you on your left cheek offer him your right as well…
All of these things are there to teach us how to be humble and spiritually poor.

OK.. so here is the big question .. what is it to be spiritually poor ?
Being spiritually poor is not the same as being materially poor.  St Elizabeth of Hungry. the patron saint of the Secular Franciscan Order, was princess in Hungry and also married Louis IV of Germany.  Elizabeth used to disguise herself and sneak out of the castle in order to bring bread to the poor, in the streets of the city.  She would spin wool to make clothing for the poor, and gave away the state robes and jewels to the poor for clothing and food.
Materially, St Elizabeth was well off, she was royalty and had been so all her life.  Spiritually she was poor and humble, giving of herself not only in material possessions but of her time and labors to care for her fellow man.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She chose to go to India in order to serve some of the most poor and destitute.  To teach children. It is said that upon arrival in Indian, the first thing she did was pick a man up out of the mud on the streets, who was dying.
She said that even the poorest of Gods children did not deserve to die that way.  She took him and cared for him until he passed from this life.  She spent the rest of her life serving the poorest of the poor.  Caring for their bodily needs and their spiritual needs.
Then there was St Francis, the Poverello, the poor little man of Assisi.  His ardent desire was the shed as much as was possible of this world with all its physical trappings  and sin, and align himself and emulate as much as he could the poor and crucified Christ.  He spent the first half ofhis life as the ultimate party animal, and the second half seeking after spiritual poverty and the assimilation of the Gospel life.  He gave up all his worldly things, to gain life with Christ and to try as he was able to bring the entire world of brothers and sisters with him. He did not own property, he ate according to what he had, he ate according to what was left in sharing with others.  He celebrated creation, and all the blessings from God that were contained within that creation and each part of that creation that gave glory to God.   Again, though I digress.
He courted and loved poverty and called it Lady Poverty wooed as his companion.
The Franciscans were barred from carrying weapons as it was they are against the Lords commandments to love of neighbor.
A path we should fully embrace in our daily walk.

Spiritual poverty has the partner called humility. In true spiritual poverty.. those who would be first in poverty, must be last with humility.  The spiritual poverty places all others in front of themselves and puts God first in all things. In putting God first there are hardships to bare, things that we do without, and we can with joy accept those things, and enourage others in accepting those things with joy because they are indeed for their own welfare and benefit, and for the kingdom of God.
A friend who is a friar, had to leave his parish, and all the relationships and daily interactions he had come to enjoy. But the call came, and he had to leave.  Indeed he left to serve God embracing poverty of spirit in order to fulfill the role he was called to.  Happy for him, and full of encouragement we would have to send him off, and pray for Gods will.  So it is with each of us.  Encourage each other on the path to spiritual poverty, and in the advancement of God’s will for us above all things even the things of our human hearts attachments.
May God give you the gift of his peace !
 

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2 Responses to “Poor In Spirit (Beatitudes Part I)”

  1. Nissa Annakindt Says:

    What a beautiful account of poverty of spirit! I never thought of it that way. I am living a life of material poverty myself as I’m on disability, I have Asperger Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. I am trying to find the spiritual dimensions in my current financial situation, and your article was a great help.

    I am a Catholic convert, after being evangelical Protestant from childhood to college years and for many years after that being a Neopagan. I unexpectedly came back to Christ around 2005 and knew that becoming a Catholic was the right way to go.

    Anyway, I was looking around for some good Catholic blogs and found yours. May the Lord bless this blog!

    Nissa

    • brbearsfo Says:

      Nissa, Thank you so much for sharing your story with us ! Everyone struggles with these concepts when they come face to face with their faith. I am so very happy that you found this blog and that it helped or was a tool for you on your journey. It always makes me happy to hear from those who have read somethings that resonated with them.

      I will pray with you and for you.. Peace and good ,

      Mark

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