This is the first in a series of meditations on each of the Beatitudes.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
What does it mean to be poor in spirit? I’ve been thinking a lot about poverty and extravagance. Sts Clare and Francis seem to be helping me along in my journey. I hear a lot of churches preaching the gospel of “health and wealth” but I find it difficult to believe that God would have us so consumed with something as uninspired as money.
In the rosary meditation, The Rosary is a Place, Fr. Groschel reminds us during the 3rd Joyful Mystery that God chose for His Son to be born poor, and to remain poor for His entire life. Jesus was born with the barest of necessities on hand. Throughout His ministry, He carried nothing with Him. He had no great home or carriage. Jesus lived in the lowest poverty. When Jesus preformed great miracles to feed the multitudes, did He provide an extravagant feast? No, simple fish and loaves. The example we were given is a simple life without extravagance.
Most of us remember the parable of the sower:
The sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And other some fell upon a rock: and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And other some fell among thorns, and the thorns growing up with it, choked it. And other some fell upon good ground; and being sprung up, yielded fruit a hundredfold. –Luke 8:5-8a
Something remarkable about this passage is that there is no judgement made about the seed itself. There is no good seed, no bad seed. All of the seed is the same stock, out of the same bag. It’s where the seed lands that determines its fruitfulness. Bad seed? No such thing. The problem is bad soil.
The meaning of this parable isn’t left up to interpretation. Jesus spells out exactly what each fate represents. I want to draw your attention in particular to the seed that fell among thorns:
And that which fell among thorns, are they who have heard, and going their way, are choked with the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and yield no fruit. –Luke 8:14
The seed that fell among thorns is not merely distracted by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life, they are choked. This is why we fast, to distance ourselves from excess and overindulgence so to we might breathe. It is not evil to be comfortable or to have money, but to make this the cornerstone of one’s life is, to use the words of our Savior, to plant yourself among thorns.
For they that will become rich, fall into temptation, and into the snare of the devil, and into many unprofitable and hurtful desires, which drown men into destruction and perdition. For the desire of money is the root of all evils; which some coveting have erred from the faith, and have entangled themselves in many sorrows. –1 Timothy 6:9-10
I don’t know how so many of our flock have the notion that God wants nothing more than to stuff our checking accounts. Don’t get me wrong, God will provide for our every need, to be sure. However, it is the idea that God’s will for us is wealth that I take issue with. This idea is treacherous. It creates an idea that we should seek money instead of the Kingdom of God. This is a very grave lie. If our lives are caught up in seeking wealth, we are not seeking after God.
Earthly riches are like the reed. Its roots are sunk in the swamp, and its exterior is fair to behold; but inside it is hollow. If a man leans on such a reed, it will snap off and pierce his soul. –St. Anthony of Padua
Letting go of the things that seem to give us comfort, gives us no choice to to fly into the arms of Christ for our comfort. Giving up the things of this world reminds us of the things our souls truly long for. It’s so easy, so dreadfully easy to get caught up in chasing after things that pass away. Oh, I wish I had a nicer car, I wish I had a nicer house, I wish I had a newer wardrobe, I must have new shoes, I’ve got to get a bigger diamond, I want, I wish, I need, I must! These are the things that feed “self” but starve the soul.
And he said to all: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. –Luke 9:23
Today, rather than going to God with a list of what I must have here on earth, perhaps I can ask God to give me what I need for Heaven and nothing more. Today, rather than tying myself to the earth chasing after things that will rot and choke, I will spend time just being with God and not asking for anything but the grace to live with less.