July 24, 2012
When Jesus said in Matt. 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” He was telling us to rely not on ourselves but on our heavenly Father who desires only our good. The Father possesses the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of peace, joy, and unity in charity. We possess nothing of value unless we possess God. When we possess God, His kingdom is ours.
All the good spiritual writers tell us in one place or another, and many times as well, that we cannot trust ourselves to know what is the best for us. Yet we seem to forget this very easily and try to force getting what we want spiritually through our own efforts or some formula somebody is touting.
The first Beatitude is about humility, which opens our hearts to God. St. Benedict thought humility was so important he described twelve degrees of it in chapter 7 of his Holy Rule which I covered in detail in many of my Sabbath Moments posts. Unfortunately, we can’t wave a magic wand over ourselves and say “I am now humble and poor in spirit,” although I wish it would be so because living these Beatitudes is such hard work, and I am adverse to the pain and suffering it takes to keep in a right relationship with God.
Fortunately, the Catholic Church has many time-tested spiritual practices to help us easily distractable humans stay on the right track. Among them is daily spiritual reading and reflecting on the lives and writings of the saints. When we do this, even if for only a few minutes, we are practicing humility and poverty of spirit. As we empty ourselves of our vain delusions and invite God into our souls, we possess Him and His kingdom.
Today in the meditation from Divine Intimacy, Father Gabriel presented a prayer of St. Augustine that perfectly expresses humility and poverty of spirit.
Almighty, omnipotent Lord, show me my poverty so that I may confess it. I said that I was rich and that I needed nothing; I did not know that I was poor, blind, naked, wretched, and miserable. I believed that I was something and I was nothing. I said, “I shall become wise,” and I became foolish; I thought that I was prudent, but I deceived myself. And I see now that wisdom is Your gift, that without You we can do nothing, for if You, O God, do not keep the city, he watches in vain that keeps it. You taught me this that I might know myself; You abandoned me and you tried me…so that I would know myself. You had hardly gone a short distance from me when I fell. Then I saw and knew that You were guiding me; if I fell, it was my own fault, and if I rose again, it was by Your help.
Thank you, God, for giving us St. Augustine to set an example for us, especially as we seek to live the Gospel in today’s world. And thank you for the sacred liturgy, especially this prayer from the Eighth Sunday after Pentecost:
Graciously grant to us, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the spirit to think and do always such things as are rightful; that we, who cannot exist without Thee, may be enabled to live according to Thy will. Through our Lord Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end, Amen.
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