‘Blessed are the Poor in Spirit’: But Why?

To have or not to have material possessions is secondary. Everything depends on where we put our heart: on God or on the things of this world.

Newsroom (Gaudium PressAmong the many saints that adorn the firmament of the Holy Church, Saint Louis Gonzaga is undoubtedly one of the best known, especially among Catholic youth.

The mere echo of his name makes us meditate on that virtue which most characterized him: an unblemished purity, an outstanding virginity. However, little is known about his asceticism and the no small efforts that this virtue cost him.

For example, when he was only 11 years old, coming from a noble family in Italy, he lived like a true religious, even in the midst of the court: he prayed for hours on end, did not care about the honors of his lineage, performed mortifications, etc. And so great was his detachment from earthly things and the glories of this world that he even said on one occasion, “It is not fitting that because of our birth we should make ourselves so great; for, after all, the ashes of a prince will not be distinguished from those of a pauper, except by a greater decomposition.[1]

It was this complete surrender to God that made Louis Gonzaga a true light not only for the 16th century in which he lived, but for all of history.

Material poverty and spiritual poverty

“At that time, when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on the mountain and sat down. The disciples came to him, and Jesus began to teach them” (Mt 5:1-2).

Already at the beginning of the Gospel we find a precious lesson: to be counted among the “pupils” of the Divine Master, it is necessary to let go of earthly tensions and worries and climb the mountain of serenity, the mountain of spiritual life.

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Let us put ourselves in this key and listen to the well-known “Sermon on the Mount” or “Sermon of the Beatitudes,” which today’s liturgy presents us with. This is what Our Lord says:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:3).

In the preceding verses, St. Matthew has made it clear that these words of Our Lord were intended for those closest to Him: the apostles and disciples. In fact, among them were not many learned men and magistrates; for the most part, Jesus’ audience on this occasion was made up of simple fishermen. The words of St. Paul in today’s second reading could be applied to them:

“Among you are not many wise men of human wisdom, not many mighty, not many noble” (Cor 1:26).

However, in no way can it be affirmed that, in the above-mentioned passage, the Savior was referring only to people lacking material resources. On the contrary, the Master did not simply say “Blessed are the poor,” but “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

This is what Pope Benedict XVI said in his book Jesus of Nazareth: “The poverty spoken of here is never a purely material phenomenon. Purely material poverty does not save, although the underprivileged of this world, of course, can count in a very special way on divine goodness. But the hearts of people who possess nothing may be hardened, intoxicated, corrupted-inwardly full of greed, forgetful of God, and eager only for material goods.”[2]

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The ‘poor in spirit’ mentioned by the Divine Master in this verse are not those in need of money, but men detached from the goods of this world, whether they be many or few, in order to follow Jesus Christ.”[3]

Sufferings make us creditors of God’s blessings

So, it is perfectly possible to be rich in material goods, and poor in spirit. Saint Louis Gonzaga possessed material resources in abundance; a path of worldly honors was open to him since childhood; if he wanted, he could indulge in earthly pleasures very easily. But he loved God more than anything of this world, and so he abandoned the passing goods to cling to the eternal ones.

Unfortunately, it is also possible to be poor materially and rich in spirit. How does this happen? “A poor person, disgusted with his condition, dominated by envy, ambition or pride, will be a ‘rich in spirit’ to whom the Kingdom of Heaven can never belong.”[4]

Whether or not we possess material possessions is secondary; it all depends on where we set our hearts: on God or on the things of this world.

The perfect attitude consists, then, first of all, in not becoming attached to anything other than God Himself. And if we are filled with good things through Him, let us be grateful and love Him not because of these good things, but with a pure love, simply because He is a kind and generous God. If, on the contrary, we have to experience difficulties in our life, let us never rebel against Providence and, above all, let us not allow ourselves to be dominated by the envy of others. Rather, let us thank God for these sufferings, for when we are filled with good things, we become God’s debtors; but when we suffer and love God, He becomes our debtor.[5]

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By Lucas Rezende

[1] CEPARI, Vigilio. Vie de saint Louis Gonzague. Dijon: Antoine Maître, 1855, p. 41.

[2] BENEDICT XVI. Jesus of Nazareth. Dal Battesimo alla Trasfigurazione. Milano: Rizzoli, 2007, p. 100-101.

[3] CLÁ DIAS, João Scognamiglio. The unpublished on the gospels. Città de Vaticano: LEV, 2013, v. 2, p. 45.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Cf. AFONSO MARIA DE LIGÓRIO, Santo. Classics of Spirituality: The Practice of the Love of Jesus Christ. Trad. Luís Augusto Rodrigues Domingues. São Paulo: Cultor of Books, 2021, v. 19, p. 50-51.

The post Bem-aventurados os pobres em espírito appeared first on Gaudium Press.

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