The theme of last Wednesday evening’s Commune service was poverty of spirit. I focused the group’s attention on the Beatitude: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:4) It was an exploration of the posture that allows openness to God, whose presence can seem elusive, unnecessary or, when felt, may be surprising and unsettling. One of the questions for me this Advent has been how can we as believers open ourselves to receive God if we already have everything we need? How can we receive God’s love if our hearts are puffed up with our self importance? How can we truly know God when our stuff gets in the way? The words of the martyr Archbishop Oscar Romero, discovered in a book of Advent devotions, are enlightening:
No one can celebrate a genuine Christmas without being truly poor. The self-sufficient, the proud, those who, because they have everything, look down on others, those who have no need even of God – for them there will be no Christmas. Only the poor, the hungry, those who need someone to come on their behalf, will have that someone. That someone is God. Emmanuel. God-with-us. Without poverty of spirit there can be no abundance of God.
We need to become poor in spirit. Perhaps the most effective way to do so is to live in solidarity with the poor of this world, those who do not have the material resources most of us do. Let us never forget that our savior was born in a stable, became a refugee (remember the flight to Egypt), and lived his life in such a way that material possessions did not get in the way of his ministry (the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head).
There’s a danger in our consumerist society to deceive ourselves into thinking that the Christian way does not require poverty. So let us seek this Christmas above all an orientation within ourselves that enables us to receive God’s overflowing love for us. God steals into the world to be with us and within in us, so let us prepare to open our lives in meaningful ways to receive the blessings of God’s love. Let us strive to become truly poor in spirit.