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4th Sunday

This Sunday we start listening to the teachings of the Master, to the so-called Sermon on the Mount – the summary of the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ in the gospel of St. Matthew. And the first words are somewhat scandalous to modern ears: blessed are the poor in spirit, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.”

Since when have the poor become blessed? How dare someone say that the poor are fortunate? I certainly cannot say to a beggar: You know brother, you are actually richer than I. Or to a malnourished child: Hey, little one, your life is better than most people’s. Or to an abandoned grandmom: Smile, because you hold the key to real riches.

Does God endorse poverty? Does he want his people to suffer? Suffering, including poverty itself, remains a mystery, because God allows it to happen, given his respect for human freedom and cosmic laws. But God certainly does not cause our suffering and He certainly desires our progress and prosperity.

But what do scriptures mean when it speaks of poverty, the poverty that is pleasing to God’s eyes, the poverty that is blessed?

First, remember this, God loves the poor. He has a soft spot in his heart for the poor. He is our father and He loves us when the rest of the world turns its back on us. That is why as Christians, we must do our best to help each other out of poverty. If there is anything we can do to help people, if there is anything we can do to help our selves, then we are obligated to do it. That is what God wants – our growth and development as individuals and as nations.

Second, God delights in the one who is poor in spirit. Who are the poor in spirit? These are the humble people. These are the people who know in their hearts and minds that the most important attitude is to trust in the help of God to meet the challenges of life. No amount of material resources can aid us in attaining our aspirations, and so our hearts are not attached to things more than to God.

Not all poor people trust in God. Some poor people also oppress other people. Some trust in their power, in violence and in evildoing. Some poor people do not even acknowledge their need for God. So being poor is not equivalent to being blessed in God’s eyes.

But all of us are called to be poor in spirit, to humbly accept that even as we are equipped with material resources, even as we industriously labor for our good, nothing will happen without the grace of God in our lives. You can only buy medicine, but not healing. You can purchase a house but not peace of mind. You can be surrounded by friends and family and still feel insecure. You can get an education, but not good character.

Only if you trust in the Lord can you truly achieve the deepest aspirations of your heart. Let us pray that we will discover poverty in spirit, the humility to trust only in the power of the Lord.