WARNING: THE FOLLOWING POST IS VERY, VERY RELIGIOUS. It may not be suitable for all, and I understand this. That’s why I’m warning you now, if you don’t feel like reading something that’s more religious than my normal posts, please stop reading. Thank you.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
– Matthew 5:3
The above quote is the first of the beatitudes, a seeming litany proclaimed by Jesus, of who are blessed in the eyes of God. Jesus doesn’t list the wealthy, those who go to church regularly, those who have the highest accolades and titles, or even those who are the most publicly loved. Jesus lists the poor, the meek, the merciful, and countless other groups who are often shamed. Jesus tells us to be more aware of ourselves in the presence of God, not in the presence of how others treat you.
What’s important is that he begins with the “poor in spirit.” Now, the entirety of the beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew begins what is known as the Sermon on the Mount, or when Jesus preached on the Mountain to his disciples, and to those who would hear him. This is him preaching most clearly.
The term, “poor in spirit” then is very much referencing to what Jesus the Preacher would reference. Just as modern preachers reference their material, the bible, Jesus was referencing what is known now as the Old Testament, or what the Jewish people know as the Torah. In the Old Testament, the poor are, “those who are without material possessions and whose confidence is in God.” As the online website for the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) website points out, “Matthew added in spirit in order either to indicate that only the devout poor were meant or to extend the beatitude to all, of whatever social rank, who recognized their complete dependence on God.”
So the term “poor in spirit” refers to someone who’s aware of their dependence on God for all, either while also being materially poor, or being of any social standing.
If the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who know that they need God for all, then the question is one of Ego, of pride. I feel that more people acknowledge that they need God, that they have a finite ability to accomplish on their own, and that life in bleak without God. But for most, we want to do things on our own, to believe we are independent and capable of all on our own. Jesus calls us to know that those who are blessed, before all else, are the most humble among us. Those who will enter the kingdom of heaven are those whose trust in the Lord, above all is, is what guides them.
This is a tough message, especially for non-Christians. But it’s just as tough for me. I may be a devout Catholic, but I struggle with ego so much. I find that the most difficult aspect of my spiritual life is losing my will to put my own desires before God, and to do all without God.
For that reason, I’ve very recently begun praying the Litany of Humility. For those of you that don’t know what that is, it is here. Without a doubt, it is the most difficult prayer I have ever prayed. But it’s been slowly working in me, I can feel it.
If this prayer works for you, let me know. Let us all pray together, that we can begin to understand that we are not always in control, and that is good. All of us are merely human, and that’s perfect. We are human, and being human, being broken and hurt, is beautiful. It is so beautiful that God became human, to be like us, to understand our experience in His own experience, and even died upon the cross for us.
I’ll end this reflection with a song by Sufjan Stevens:
Thank you. A.M.D.G.
So, that was the first reflection in this short series. I know it was very religious, and not very political. I thought I might start with something more focused on the scripture, and ease my way into a reflection also on the world around us. I could’ve talked about the poor, but trust me, there’s plenty of theology to reflect what’s happening in the world. Plus, I can always come back to talk to the poor. Anyways, please stay tuned tomorrow, as I take on the second of the Beatitudes of the Gospel of Matthew. Also, you can read ahead, and also see where I’m getting this translation from right here, at the website for the USCCB. The translation, in case you’re wondering, is the NABRE, or New American Bible Revised Edition, which is what the USCCB recommends.