The word poor is found 446 times in 384 separate verses of the bible. In the King James Version 442 and the English Standard Version 684 times. We will find a lot of definitions throughout but our focus is on the Catholic Bible.
Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount with the first Beatitude of “Blessed are the poor in spirit”. (Mt. 5: 3). Have any of us stopped to really absorb those words and place ourselves in the midst of caring for those who are spiritually deficient among us?
Mary’s Magnificat enhances the words “….He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly (poor)”. (Lk. 1: 52). At the Birth of Jesus the Angels sang to the poor shepherds in the field.They were the first to hear the Good News. The Savior was coming to the poor of the world.
Three more times in Luke’s Gospel the poor are edified in dramatic fashion. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” (Lk. 4: 18). “Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours.” (Lk. 6: 20). “the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” (Lk. 7: 22b).
Of course many will believe that poverty is the lack of worldly goods, and so that is true. But, poverty in the eyes of God reaches to the very depth of ones ability to cope with depression, addiction, loss of faith, and looking for someone or something to enter their life and change everything. Remember Augustine’s famous antidote; “Our hearts are restless till we rest in thee.”
One major theme of Advent is to seek hope in a world of doubt and unrest. Those of us within the Church may have that before us, but too many are stuck in the mire of depression and faithlessness. These are the very souls Christ came to share His Father’s Love with and sent disciples two by two seeking those who were poor and lost; to find and bring them into His fold.
Think for a moment how often we pray for poor souls in Purgatory. They have a great need for our becoming the “Poor In Spirit” for them. See the poverty stricken persons on the corner looking for alms so they at least can find food or bodily comfort. Their poverty goes deeper than food or shelter. Feeding them first opens the door to a soul who may be lost. Then, once that is accomplished, in the best way we can do, perhaps that Grace will allow them an opportunity to see the one that lifted their spirit above the doldrums of an empty life. Here, with the Grace of God, the Holy Spirit can reach and find the soul that is yearning for what Augustine mentioned about the restlessness of man.
This year may become the ultimate in reaching the many who have drifted away, dissatisfied with the Church, discouraged with what evangelization is all about, and looking for the lyrics of the song from the Angels at the Birth of Jesus; “and on earth Peace to those on whom His favor rests.” (Lk. 2: 14).
We need to once again be those upon whom Jesus spoke of with; “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Ralph B. Hathaway Advent/Christmas 2018