Friday, January 26, 2007

Blessed Are the Poor

1. "Blessed are the rich." This is the judgment of the world. But Jesus says: Blessed are you poor (Luke 6:20). Whom are we to believe? Naturally, we must believe Jesus. A certain amount of confusion could arise, however, in our understanding of this maxim. It becomes clear from the context of St. Luke, and still clearer in the words of St. Matthew, who writes: Blessed are the poor in spirit (Mt. 5:3). It is necessary, therefore, as St. Jerome and others have commented, to be poor in our detachment from our possessions.

If a poor man longs for riches, and envies and hates the wealthy because of their possessions, he is not poor in spirit. So he cannot receive the blessing of which Our Lord spoke. In the same way, a rich man may be attached to his great wealth. Perhaps he aims at nothing else but to increase it and, because he is thinking of it all the time, neglects his duty to God and to his neighbour. Above all, love of riches may cause him to be lacking in justice and charity. The behaviour of such a man is contrary to the law of God. Meditate carefully on this point and do not neglect to make whatever resolutions seem necessary.

2. Detachment from riches implies the obligation of using them as a means of reaching eternal life and in accordance with the principles of justice and charity. This is a positive commandof God which nobody can ignore without falling into sin to a greater or less extent. But over and beyond this general rule there is an evangelical counsel to which only the privileged few are called in their search for perfection. This evangelical counsel says to us: "If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell what thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." (Mt. 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 12:33, 18:22)

If we have received this great call to evangelical perfection, we must listen to it and follow Jesus promptly and generously. But even if our vocation does not lie in that direction, let us take care not to become too attached to the passing things of this world. Our hearts were not made for them, but for God.

Remember the striking words of St. Paul: Brethren, the time is short; it remains that those who have wives be as if they had none; and those who weep, as though not weeping; and those who rejoice, as thou not rejoicing; and those who buy, as thou not possessing; and those who use the world, as thou not using it, for this world as we see it is passing away. (I Cor. 7:29-31)

3. Those who are really poor should not be too disturbed. If they are resigned to their poverty and are not consumed by the desire for riches, the blessing of the Gospel is theirs.

Let them remember that when Jesus became Man in order to redeem us, He did not choose to be wealthy. He chose to be the poorest of men. Similarly, Our Blessed Lady, St. Joseph and all the Saints were free from all desire of worldly possessions, so that there was room in their hearts only for God, their supreme good.

Let them remember also for their consolation that it is much easier for them to gain Heaven, because they are not weighed down by worldly cares.

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