Blessed Are The Poor by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Written by Luke to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus said to them in reply, "Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them - do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did"!
And he told them this parable: "There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, he said to the gardener, 'For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. So cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?' He said to him in reply, 'Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down""
God offers a veritable feast from the table of His Word this Sunday. He provides the opportunity to be nourished with our prayerful reflection upon the beatitudes as recounted in Luke's Gospel. It is not possible in this reflection to describe each course in this sumptuous meal, so I will address the first course, "Blessed are you who are poor, for the kingdom of God is yours."
The poor are blessed because their condition easily leads to faith in God. Believing in God and loving Him constitute the greatest blessing on this earth. Therefore, being poor and developing the poverty of spirit that leads to faith is indeed a great blessing. As St. James reminds us: "Has not God chosen the poor in this world to be rich in faith?" (Jn 2:5).
The poor are unable to throw money at their problems to make them go away, to medicate their pain with an abundance of pleasures. As a result, they are more likely to turn to God and recognize their profound need for him. This recognition of our dependence upon God is a great blessing.
Those who are poor are less likely to be distracted by material things that clutter our lives and keep us from focusing on what is truly important, like the love of God, family life and the service of our neighbor. This freedom that often results from poverty leads to happiness.
Being poor helps a person to understand those who suffer in similar and different ways around them and motivates them to offer whatever help they can. This generosity pleases God greatly. Jesus' praise of the widow in the temple makes it clear that the poor can be generous and that God delights in such generosity.
The poor are more likely to be dependent upon others for their daily sustenance, like extended family or members of a local church. This need for help easily translates into a keen awareness of our need for God, the Giver of all good gifts. This profound awareness that we are not the masters of the universe is a great blessing because it forces us to turn regularly to the source of life and goodness, God himself. A person who does so "is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out it roots to the stream" (Jer. 17:7).
While it is certainly possible to be materially poor and not turn to God in faith, those who are poor are in a condition that lends to seeing the radical need that every human being has for God. They are never far from believing in God's infinite goodness and love. In that way, the poor are truly blessed and the kingdom of God is theirs.
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