Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:3
In the Bible God is shown to be the One who keeps His promises, such as the promises made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the promises made to King David. However, He keeps His promises in unexpected ways and the final fulfillment of those promises is greater than we could have hoped for, because they are fulfilled in Christ. In this verse, Jesus Christ promises that the poor in spirit will inherit the kingdom of heaven. Is spiritual poverty related to economic poverty? How can we become poor in spirit?
St. Ambrose says, “In the eye of Heaven blessedness begins there where misery begins in human estimation.” Remember that Jesus said, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God” (Mk 10:24) and “You cannot serve both God and mammon” Mt 6:24). We’re often tempted to put our trust in wealth. Money solves a lot of problems and opens a lot of doors, so we’re tempted to trust in wealth to provide safety, security, and happiness. However, wealth also creates problems, and it can’t solve the basic problem of life. As the Beatles sang, “Money can’t buy me love.” The most important things in life can’t be bought; they can only be freely given and freely received. They come from our relationships with other people and from our relationship with God.
St. Jerome says, “The poor in spirit are those who embrace a voluntary poverty for the sake of the Holy Spirit.” Throughout the history of the Church there have been people who embrace poverty for the sake of the kingdom of God, such as hermits, monks and nuns, and members of religious orders, who take a vow of poverty. They rely on God for all things, completely placing their trust in Him, so that they might be a sign of the power of faith. They have given up an inheritance in the world, so that they might store up treasures in heaven. They rely on the promise that God made to the High Priest Aaron and the tribe of Levi, “You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the sons of Israel” (Nm 18:20).
St. John Chrysostom says, “He here calls all loftiness of soul and temper spirit; for as there are many humble against their will, constrained by their outward condition, they have no praise; the blessing is on those who humble themselves by their own choice. Thus, He begins at once at the root, pulling up pride which is the root and source of all evil, setting up its opposite, humility, as a firm foundation.” The only way to be truly poor in spirit is through humility. Priests and religious who live a simple life may still nourish pride and arrogance in their hearts, while a rich person, like St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, may be truly humble. Humility is the foundation of all the virtues. It helps us to be honest with ourselves about our failings and recognize our need for grace.
Cultivate humility by listening more than speaking, seeing the good in others, and using good manners (which are a sign of respect for other people, thus showing that we don’t consider ourselves more important than them). The best way to cultivate humility is by praying for it and regularly going to confession. Going to confession is a great act of humility because we have to examine our consciences, admit to the wrongs we’ve done, and ask God for forgiveness through the ministry of the Church. Aim for at least once a month.
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.