Blessed are the poor in spirit

Blessed are the Poor in spirit,

Immediately Jesus confronts is with a conundrum. “Blessed” as we have seen, is a achieving a state of primal power to grow and prosper and be everything God has created us to be. This is a warm and happy idea! However, Jesus juxtaposes this creation word with the very opposite idea of “poor in spirit.” Simply said, to be poor in spirit is to come to a deep knowledge of one’s own spiritual and moral poverty. In other words, one is truly blessed when one is completely convinced that one is not spiritual at all! This is a cold and unhappy idea. What is Jesus saying here?

Well, to begin with, this flies in the face of our deeply rooted human assumption that spirituality is essentially a consoling and self-affirming thing; that spiritual growth is to be understood as an increase in our own personal power. In reality, true spirituality increases as we see ourselves as we really are, and come to grips with the vast regions of spiritual poverty within. So we do not become more powerful, but become more and more dependent on God and His mercy in our lives. Spirituality is becoming empty of ourselves so that we can be full of God. It is counter intuitive. The Bible, and the mystical fathers and mothers of the Church, always taught that the only way up is down.

Being poor in spirit is to be full of self-knowledge. Many Christians are simply strangers to themselves. They know themselves to be sinners in a general sort of way, and in their conversion experience had a powerful experience of divine forgiveness, but if you press for specifics on the day to day, they come up with a blank stare. Part of this is presumption on the grace of God. To know that all of your sins are forgiven by the work of Jesus is critical, but it is only the starting point of one’s life in Christ. It provides the safe place where God can reveal the true nature of our need and poverty. Self knowledge, or being “poor in spirit,” is therefore both painful and a blessing! Painful because the truth hurts; a blessing in that it throws us upon God and His mercy. Indeed, we are truly blessed because we know the truth, and the truth sets us free. Hence the paradox of blessedness and poverty.

Does this make sense? Any comments of anyone’s experience of “Blesses are the poor in spirit?

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