“The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty – It is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There’s a hunger for love, as there is a hunger for God… They know they need something more than money, yet they don’t know what it is. What they are missing, really, is a living relationship with God.
– Saint Teresa of Calcutta
For years, I sought happiness and fulfillment in the things of this world, in pleasures, in material objects.
For years, I associated my identity with my job, or my role as a husband and a father. I associated who I was with my status on Facebook and my internet profile.
For years, I kept chasing the end of that rainbow, and seeking to fill that void deep with me with one worldly thing after another.
On the surface, everything was fine. But yet, deep down, I was always missing that one thing. And so, I’d move to the next thing, the bigger thing, the better thing. But it was something that could not be grasped.
For years, I put my trust in men and women and things in this world – and for years – I did not put my trust in God. was afraid to let go and trust in God to fill that void. I relied on myself, depended on attachments and things in this world to get myself through – but it was never enough. The hunger was still there.
It was only recently, after detaching from many of those things that cluttered my life, and letting go of some comforts for a while, where I’ve come to realize that the hunger I have – is a spiritual hunger – that can only be filled by one Thing – God.
How fortunate today then, to be able to write about the Beatitudes. My favorite one in particular centers on spiritual hunger – “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
If you look at the basic definition of poor, it goes something like this:
- Poor: lacking sufficient money to live at a standard considered comfortable or normal in a society.
To live at a standard considered comfortable or normal. Remember that.
When it comes to this particular beatitude – being poor in spirit is a good thing though. It is a special grace. It took me a few years to really appreciate and understand what poor in spirit meant. And so if you read it in conjunction with the other readings today, God chooses the humble, the weak, and the lowly in this world “to shame the strong, to reduce to nothing those who are something so that no human might boast before God.”
And this has nothing to do with economic or social status. It has to do with spiritual status, and our ego. Our pride.
Everyone has a spiritual hunger – and I thing you especially see that in the world today, as Saint Teresa mentions in her quote to open this reflection. But the difference is in what we choose to quench that hunger.
Do we choose pride, wealth, and material things? Do we look to other people, the internet, alcohol, or drugs as objects to ease the hunger? Do we look to our work, or living vicariously through our kids often way-too-busy lives or even our spouses to fill that hunger?
Do you find yourself saying that, “this will make me happy, or if I just had that, or if I just had a little more, I would be content?” Do you fall into slavery to a vice, something you turn to for a little bit of comfort, for a crutch, if even for a split second, just to ease that hunger in your soul?
Or for your spiritual hunger – do you turn to the One that created you, that wants to fill that void – God?
Do you find joy in that hunger, knowing that while life may not always be comfortable, and that sometimes it’s less comfortable than others, you find joy in that Christ is with you, and you seek Him, wondering where He might show up next?
Do you depend on Him and have a reliance on Him for your fulfillment? Are you capable of detaching from the things of this world – the achievements, talents, wealth and other special blessings he’s given you so that, if God calls you according to His plan, you can attach yourself to Him fully?
Can you master yourself, control your passions and be willing to forego comforts from time to time knowing that you can only do this through Him?
Choosing God to fill this spiritual hunger that Saint Teresa describes, and not looking to the material world, knowing that only He can quench it, having total reliance on Him as we realize our own humility and limitations, is what it means to be Poor in Spirit.
For years, I didn’t know what this meant. I didn’t put effort into knowing. I tried to fill the hunger with things. I got comfortable. I forgot God.
Which gets me back to that definition of “poor”, where it defines it as NOT living at a standard considered comfortable or normal. No one wants to live in physical poverty, and my family and I blessed to live with the means that we have, as are many of you.
But if we get “comfortable”, and live as “normal” in our spiritual lives and in our faith – and put our trust in men and things – then we run the risk of forgetting God and not fully existing in a living relationship with Him.
I know as I continue to walk through this desert, I’m seeking this living relationship with God – a relationship I’ve never had. We should all seek this relationship, to live humbly as Sons and Daughters of God.
This is our true identity. This relationship with God, this poverty of spirit, is what fulfills that spiritual hunger, and makes us better people in every other aspect of our lives.
“Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.”
– Saint Teresa of Calcutta
ZEP 2:3; 3:12-13; PS 146; 1 COR 1:26-31; MT 5:1-12A