” BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT.”
The maxims of the world are altogether opposed t those of the Gospel. Thus worldlings put their trust in riches, whilst the Saints of God look upon poverty as their greatest treasure. It is not certain the rich are lost, but the Redeemer Himself has declared : It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven-(Matt. xix. 24).
To the young man who asked what he should do in order to attain perfection Jesus said: If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor-(Matt. xix. 21). The Saviour told him that he should renounce all his possessions without a single exception. For when, as St. Bonaventure says, the spirit is encum bered with the weight of any temporal possessions, the soul cannot rise to union with God: ” Burdened with the load of temporal things, the spirit cannot ascend to God.” “The love of terrestrial objects,” according to St. Augustine, “is the birdlime of the spiritual wings,” which impedes the flight of the soul to God. And again the holy Doctor says : ” By the great wing of poverty a Christian flies quickly to Heaven.” Hence St. Laurence Justinian exclaimed: ” 0 blessed voluntary poverty, possessing nothing, fearing nothing, always cheerful, always abounding, because it turns to advan tage every inconvenience.”
It was for our edification and instruction that Jesus Christ wished to live in continual poverty on earth. Hence St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi called poverty the spouse of Jesus. “Poverty,” says St. Bernard, “was not found in Heaven-it abounded on earth; but man did not know its value : therefore the Son of God, long ing after it, came down from Heaven to choose it for Himself, and make it precious to us.” Being rich, says St. Paul, he became poor for your sakes, that through his poverty you might be rich-(2 Cor. viii. 9). Our Redeemer was the Lord of all the riches in Heaven and on earth, but He wished to be miserably poor in this life in order to enrich us and to excite us by His example to the love of poverty which, by withdrawing our affections from temporal goods, procures for us eternal riches. He wished to be poor during His whole life. Poor in His Birth-He was born, not in a palace but in a cold stable having only a manger for His cradle and straw for His bed. Poor in His life and poor in all things He dwelt in a miserable cabin containing but a single room which served for all the purposes of life. Poor in His garments and in His food. St. John Ch…rysostom says that the Redeemer and His disciples ate nothing but barley-bread; and this may be inferred from the Gospel (John vi. 9). Poor, in fine, in His death : leaving nothing behind Him but His miserable garments ; and these, even before His death, were divided among the soldiers. Thus for His winding-sheet and sepulchre He depended on the bounty of the charitable.
0 my Jesus, in Thee I find all things: out of Thee I desire nothing. Ah, draw me entirely to Thyself; enkindle in my heart Thy holy love alone, by which I desire to be entirely consumed. Deliver me, 0 Lord, from all affections that separate me from Thee.
Jesus once said to Blessed Angela de Foligno : ” If poverty were not a great blessing I should not have chosen it for Myself, nor should I have left it as an inheritance to My elect.” It was because they saw Jesus poor that the Saints loved poverty so much. Father Louis of Granada and Blessed John of Avila dis cussed one day the reason why St. Francis of Assisi had such an affection for poverty. Father Louis maintained that it was ·because the Saint wished to be freed from every impediment to a perfect union with God. But Blessed John of Avila asserted with more truth that the ardent love of St. Francis for holy poverty arose from his ardent love of Jesus Christ. And surely a soul that loves Jesus Christ intensely cannot but exclaim with the Apostle : I count all things as dung, that I may gafo Christ-(Phil. iii. 8). I esteem all the goods of the earth as dung, and therefore I despise them all, that I may gain Jesus Christ. Hence St. Francis de Sales used to say that when a house is on fire the furniture is thrown out of the windows; and, long before, the Holy Ghost said : If a man should give all the substance of his house for love he shall despise it as nothing-(Cant. viii. 7). The ardent lover cheerfully despises all things through the love He bears to God.
My dear Redeemer, I know Thou hast been calling me for so many years because Thou dost wish me to belong to Thee entirely. Since, then, Thou dost so ardently desire my welfare, grant that henceforth I may seek only Thy love and the fulfilment of Thy will. Amen.