Thursday, March 13, 2014

Bless are the poor in Spirit

No that isn't from today's gospel, but the concept is. The word St. Matthew uses does not just mean poor, but destitute, reduced to begging.

When the first reading opening, Queen Esther is in that extract state. She is in such anguish that she has thrown herself on the ground, and is begging God for help.

Did God do this to her? Of course not. The evil that is happening to her, like most evil, is the result of someone misusing one of the most precious gifts we have, free will.

Does God like to see us beg? No God does not like to see any of his children in anguish. God, like any true parent, has the ultimate sympathy for his children, he allows himself to feel our pain.

What God wants most of all is in today's psalm.

When I called, you answered me; you built up strength within me.

God wants to fill us up completely with his love, his grace, his very self.

Of course, before a container can be filled it must be emptied. Some people, and I think they are probably few, are able to freely empty themselves, pour themselves out so that God can fill them.

For most of us, we have to be emptied. We want God, but only in a confined space. The rest of the space we have filled with other people and things, including our own ego. For many of us, God has to allow (not cause) evil to befall us. And it is always painful. It is even more painful when we have to admit that, at least in part we did it do ourselves.

Suddenly we find ourselves in a horrible situation which we could have never imagined. We beg God to rescue us. We feel like we are going to die. We may even want to die. Then we are πτωχος, poor, truly poor in spirit. The good news is that God can then truly fill us.

But look again at the line from the psalm. It does not say "When. I called, you answered me and made my problems vanish." No, it says, "…you built up strength within me." Filled with God we can get up off the ground and face the world head on. We have the strength to deal with whatever lies before us.

Blessed are the poor is spirit sounds sweet, but only to those who have never lived in poverty, spiritual or physical. True poverty is miserable, but it is one of many steps along the road to the kingdom of God.