Poor in Spirit
A Reflection on Matthew 5:1-12
Solemnity of All Saints
“When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.” (Matthew 5:1)
I see Jesus walking up the mountain among the crowds, looking for just the right place. He finds what he is looking for, turns, and sits in the teacher’s position. The crowd comes to him, expectantly. The teacher, the miracle worker, is about to speak, and the people are ready to hang on his every word. But I am not ready for what happens next.
Jesus lifts his head, looks straight at me, straight into my heart, and says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”
The Beatitudes are hard. When I read this list, I see a bunch of expectations that I can’t meet. I see pain and struggle and falling short. I feel overwhelmed that I am not doing enough. I wonder how in the world I will ever be truly clean of heart and hungering for righteousness. And I wonder what God must think of me. I wonder if I will be left out of these promises.
But I am “thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” (Matthew 16:23)
The voice of the world says I must prove myself, prove my worth. I must show that the little I have can be of some kind of value to society. So I strive and I perfect and I rush. Fear tells me I have to keep going because if I stop everyone will see how poor I am, how little I have to give, and they will know who I truly am. And on the inside, I crumble. Because I just can’t keep up. Nothing I do will prove myself worthy.
But Jesus, who sees everything within me, says that I am blessed. He says that my poverty is what makes me blessed. And I don’t understand. How could it be? He sees the lowly, the poor, the mourning, the persecuted and he says they are blessed. I can’t make sense of it.
But Jesus says that it is so, and so it must be. He, who has proven his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, He died for us, is truthful. His words have power: He speaks and brings life into the world. Though my poverty seems to me a stumbling block, He says He can use it to bring blessing. So I will trust in Him. Though I don’t understand, I will believe His words. I will rejoice that He lifts up the lowly and the poor and I will rest in His promise.