Grace: To grow in poverty of spirit as a person of the Beatitudes during this Lenten season.
Text for Prayer: Mt 5:1-12
Reflection: Jesus tells us in his sermon on the mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” In the sermon at his installation mass yesterday, Pope Francis likewise called on current government and church leaders to “protect all of God’s people and embrace with tender affection the whole of humanity, especially the poorest, the weakest, the least important.” For it is in love of the poor that we find heaven on earth.
These are challenging words in a world that revolves economically around capitalist self-interest and socialist materialism, but they are perhaps even more difficult for us to incorporate on a personal level, as we too often assume that “somebody else” should be poor with the poor while we look after ourselves.
Jesus does not say that we should merely help the poor, but be poor in spirit with the poor, to be poor ourselves.
“Oh, how I wish for a Church that is poor and for the poor,” Pope Francis said in his first meeting with journalists on March 16.
After the beautiful pageantry of papal liturgies under Pope Benedict XVI, some liturgical purists may feel threatened by our new pope’s simple style of celebrating mass, which seems to go hand-in-hand with his calls for the Church to be poor with the poor.
Rather than wearing the papal slippers, Pope Francis wears black dress shoes given to him by a friend before the conclave that elected him to replace his own tattered footwear.
Instead of elaborate gold miters and vestments, he favors dignified plain vestments, dressing for his installation mass in a manner hardly different from a local bishop.
Francis frequently shuns the papal automobiles to walk the environs of Rome on foot, but he also hopped out of the “popemobile” yesterday to bless a disabled man prior to mass.
And he has retained the Jesuit seal on his coat-of-arms, the first three initials of the name “Jesus” in Greek atop the three nails driven into the hands and feet of Christ on the cross.
Symbolic acts, perhaps, but they also serve to reinforce a message as old as the sermon on the mount: The evangelical witness of Christians is only as authentic as the genuineness of our spirit of poverty before the limitless blessings of Almighty God.
To be truly blessed is to accept being meek, lowly, humble, despised, mournful, just, pure and peaceful for the sake of God’s greater glory.
St. Ignatius Loyola, who founded the Society of Jesus to which Pope Francis belongs, deeply believed that no earthly liturgy could ever equal the beauty of a heart united completely to God’s loving will. He would invite us to imagine ourselves at Christ’s feet during the sermon on the mount and pay attention to how we feel when Jesus says “blessed are the poor in spirit,” noticing whether we find these words challenging or not. If these words fail to inspire us, then perhaps we could find better ways to allow the gospel to penetrate the hardness of our modern hearts.
Questions: Have I heeded Christ’s call to be poor in spirit? Do I live out this poverty in my daily life? Do I truly love my neighbor as myself, for the sake of God who loves me?