"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." Jesus in Matthew 6:3
I don't think this is merely a promise for the end of time, after the last judgement or after our own personal judgement and meeting with Jesus after our death, I think we find the Kingdom of God within ourselves when we realize our powerlessness, our inadequacy, our ineffectiveness, our inability to bear fruit despite what others might say about our natural gifts and talents, unless we are rooted in the confidence, trust, and awareness of the magnitude of God's love for us.
The Holy Spirit has been teaching me this for the past several weeks. What patience the Counselor has with me! One of our priest's in the homily on August 12, 2012 on Matthew 18:23-35 explained how ridiculous the servant was to the master saying that he would pay back everything. The NIV says the debt was ten thousand bags of gold. The NRSV says ten thousand talents, and in the Oremus online reader there is a mouseover footnote that reads, "A talent was worth more than fifteen years’ wages of a labourer." Our priest explained that there was no way that the servant could repay his master. It was ridiculous for him to make this promise as he fell prostrate before him begging for patience. He could never repay the debt.
The priest also explained that many times in Scripture the word debt is used in place of the word sin. And this is why in one version of the Our Father we pray or sing, "forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." Still the real debt is the inability we have to repay the great love God has for us. This is our poverty, our wretchedness, our nothingness that we read about in the writings of our beloved saints.
The priest explained that the worst thing to happen in this world is not losing your job. It is not getting diagnosed with cancer (and he knows what that is like). It is sin. And what is sin? Sin comes from the prideful, self-absorption that moves us from the natural gratefulness and returning love for love that should be so natural to us if we consider the tender love and mercy God has for us. Sin is choosing and seeking our own will and desires apart from God. It is losing the humility and trust that should come so natural to the state of being the mere children we are, and instead following the example of our first parents, Adam and Eve, that lost that humility and trust when tempted to vanity and pride with Satan's promise, "to be like God." (Genesis 3:5) That was the lie the serpent told, that we mere children could be like God, deciding good and evil based on what suits us.
I read once, in one woman's infertility blog, that it is an often repeated, but fallacious saying that God only gives us what we can handle. (It is a variation on the actual scripture verse that we will not be tempted beyond what we can bear and without a means of escaping the temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13) Instead he gives us more than we can handle because this drives us to Him. God does this with me in my worklife, in my marriage, with my children, with the mental health of my parents. No doubt he does this with you too.
Without this overburdening, how rarely do I come out of my habitual self-absorption, and mental preoccupiedness (is that a word?), and come to him as David, his anointed prophet and King did so readily? Instead, sadly, how often do I rely on my own thinking, or even consultation with those around me rather than simply acknowledging my own poverty and need for Him. King Saul was also anointed and blessed by God, but instead of asking God when he should attack he consulted soothsayers angering God.
I've learned a few things this morning that you are probably aware of, but might appreciate the reminders:
- We are all poor in spirit, the question is whether we realize it or not
- Jesus is drawn to the weakest and poorest, to those who realize they are weak and poor, and to those who don't realize the truth that they are weak and poor (that covers most all of us, doesn't it?)
- I need to contemplate regularly what God has done for us
- I need to remember Jesus is everywhere present and longs for me to make the effort of will to come to him directly, relying on Him with all the trust he always expects from me
- Jesus wants me to realize that just as he is filled with compassion and love for me, he expects me to follow in his footsteps, certain of the power of his love, opening my eyes and heart to the people around me---seeing their needs and reaching out to them as he has reached out to me. He tells me, "Let your heart overflow to those who come near you."
"Better gain wisdom than gold,
choose understanding in preference to silver.
Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.
Those who listen to instruction find happiness;
whoever trusts Yahweh is blessed." Proverbs 16:16,18,20
From He and I:
Gabrielle: I should so much like to do something for You! Even in giving all of myself, I give you nothing. What can I do?"
Jesus: Come to me. Rely on me with all the trust I always expect from you. Come to me directly; I'm waiting for you.
Since I am yours, you are rich. You are only poor when you count on yourselves and expect to act in your own unaided strength. How destitute you are then!
But if you lay hold of My merits with humility and hope, what a priceless fortune is yours?
Who is anything beside the infinitely great God? And you, particularly chosen to be showered with blessings, you are nothing but wretchedness. I feed this wretchedness every morning with my Eucharist because I want to keep you in My friendship, for I am drawn to the weakest and the poorest. Give me everything that you blame in yourself, since I am the One who transforms even the ugliest, the lowest into the gold of My Glory. How? By love. (from May 9, 1946 and April 26, 1946)
From The Better Part:
"The secret to perseverance in friendship with Christ is to draw our satisfaction not primarily from what we do, but from what God has done for us, and that requires the daily mental discipline of directing our thoughts again and again to God's goodness, cultivating an attitude of gratitude." (#186, meditation on Luke 10:13-24)
Again from He and I:Jesus: Follow me everywhere . . . . Let your heart overflow to those who come near you . . . . My poor little girl, enriched by my riches alone, may you be careful not to think that you are worth anything by yourself. May you be conscious of your power through my power.
Tell Me that you are beginning to be more certain of the power of My love, although you know you are unworthy.
Tell Me this to comfort Me for the ones who do not believe. . . . Let us make an alliance between your poverty and my riches. Never fail to lean on Me.
Have no confidence in yourself for even a moment. Where would it lead you?
You don't think often enough that I am everywhere, that nothing exists where I am not present. Think of this. It will help you reach me. One thing only I ask of you: oneness with Me. We are united in the morning in my Eucharist, let us not be separated by your indifference; it leads to constant mind-wandering. When people are in love they never stop thinking of the beloved, do they? Then what should I conclude if you don't think of Me?
Say to Me, "Have pity on me. I am nothing but a poor sinner." Believe it and I'll be moved to pity.
Consider your nothingness. If you could see it, you would be terrified if you didn't know My tender mercy. Try to grasp the poverty of your soul, its destitution. The you in you is nothing. The vision of yourself as you are would be terrible for you if you couldn't count on my merits. Make this your consolation in the meditation on my passion. Look upon Me and discover My obedient death, accepted with the sweetness of My entire Being. (April 26, 1946; Holy Thursday - April, 1946, March 22, 1945)
8 He humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. 9 For which cause, God also hath exalted him and hath given him a name which is above all names: 10 That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth: 11 And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father. 12 Wherefore, my dearly beloved, (as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only but much more now in my absence) with fear and trembling work out your salvation.13 For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will. 14And do ye all things without murmurings and hesitations: 15 That you may be blameless and sincere children of God, without reproof, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation: among whom you shine as lights in the world. (Philippians 2:8-15)
And still more from He and I:
Jesus: Will you ever comprehend My sensitivity and how your every tender and compassionate thought thrills My heart? But even if you don't understand very well, even if your love never gets beyond the stage of trial, I always take into consideration the earnest effort of your will, and this is My delight . . . .
My poor little girl, I love the nothing that you are so much that if you give me permission, I take up all the room in you.
Lose yourself in Me. Surrender yourself. Fade out of your own thoughts. Enter into my eternal being and move and have your being in me. (April 10, 1947)
Finally in the midst of the homily on August 12, and the readings and learnings that concluded this morning, I received some helpful spiritual insights from our friend Patricia, between her comments on my comments on her blog and an email she sent me. I don't think she'll mind me sharing these since much of the reason she blogs is to share these same insights with whomever might find them.
"Some people pass their whole lives without realizing how great God's love for them is. How blessed are we, Colleen, to know and to believe in His Love for us! I heard a priest mention in his homily once that 'a Saint is not so much one who loves God, as one who is absolutely convinced that God loves him.' To feel safe and confident in God's Love, to know that He longs for us, will never reject us, sets us free to just run to Him and hold on, and be hugged and want to love Him back with all our might."
He (the lawyer) answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.’ And he (Jesus) said to him, ‘You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.’ Luke 10:27-28
To sum up: I can only love the Lord my God with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my strength, and with all my mind, and my neighbor as myself if I regularly contemplate the great Love that God has for me, and if I remain in that Love, follow his commands -- to see and love others as he has loved me and as he exemplified during his time on earth. The more my job or anything else augments my vanity and pride, the more I have to run back to him, declaring my poverty of spirit, and my absolute need for him.
Again as Patricia wrote in a comment: "We should gaze on Jesus lovingly in the midst of whatever else we are doing, as St. Teresa of Avila (and Brother Lawrence too) wrote, 'finding God among the pots and pans.' As I am so small and helpless, I beg for his power to fill me with that grace of recollection, of turning to Him with a gaze or sigh, as we do with those we so love."
Glory to you Lord Jesus Christ, King of Endless Glory!