Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What Brings Us Close to God

Israel recognizes that its poverty is exactly what brings it close to God; it recognizes that the poor, in their humility, are the ones closest to God’s heart, whereas the opposite is true of the arrogant pride of the rich, who rely only on themselves. The piety of the poor that grew out of this realization finds expression in many of the Psalms; the poor recognize themselves as the true Israel. In the piety of these Psalms, in their expression of deep devotion to God’s goodness, in the human goodness and humility that grew from it as men waited vigilantly for God’s saving love—here developed that generosity of heart that was to open the door for Christ.

Jesus of Nazareth 1, 75

Reflection – We mind being poor, so much. Most of us, anyhow. We look for some other way to do things. We flee from our poverty into so many avenues: competence, intelligence, strength, wealth, moralism. So many ways of getting out from under being poor. We don’t like being poor.

But there it is—hard to avoid it in the Scriptures: “Poverty is what brings us close to God’s heart.” The experience of poverty in all its manifestations—the poverty of our broken sinful condition, the poverty of lacking this or that quality or strength, the physical poverty of being without adequate food, clothing, housing, money—all of this serves as a vehicle bringing us close to God’s heart.

It opens us up to the deeper truth which is the fundamental truth of our humanity. We are made for God and God alone, made to be an emptiness filled with the breath of His Spirit, made to be a seedbed receiving his Word and Life, a chalice eternally filled with his divine wine.

Poverty, the knowledge of our poverty, opens us up to this filling, this divine completion. Pride, arrogance, self-sufficiency, self-assuredness, close us to this. So poverty is blessed, and ‘woe to you rich!’

Ah, but we don’t like it! Not much, not most of us. We really do resist this poverty business.

It is Holy Week. Soon, we will behold the impoverishment of God. God stripped naked, God bleeding, God immobilized, transfixed on two pieces of wood. God suffering, God dying, God dead. We will bow down and worship, beholding this strange mystery which never grows any less strange, does it?

And then He rises. We have to see in this mystery which is the very heart of all reality the truth God is trying to teach us. Poverty is the road to glory and riches. Death is the path to life. To be exalted, we must humble ourselves. To empty ourselves of everything is to be filled with God.

And this is Holy Week, the time to contemplate these depths and mysteries, and to give ourselves to them more fully.

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