From Matt 5: the Beatitudes, how should we understand Christ’s proclamation, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit.”? It seem contradictory in nature, but I’m sure there is a logical answer.
Poor in spirit meaning… blessed are those who realize that they need help. Humility.
Otherwise, if one isn’t aware he needs it, help may be of no avail.
It means we are not to be overly concerned about material things. Our happiness lies in knowing, loving, and serving God; not in material possesions. Jesus said: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. (Matt 6:19-21).
School Marm… Welcome to the forum. You picked a great question for a first post! I am surprised that there are so few comments so far. Surely some of the more studied members will be able to answer the question with more clarity than I can, but I’ll give it a go anyway.
I look at the beatitudes as one of Christ’s best gifts. In them, he gave us a ‘how to become a Saint’ instruction manual. Your question is about the first rung on a ladder that leads directly from here to heaven. "Blessed are the poor in spirit…"
I’m in no way a theology scholar, but I’ve read that the word ‘poor’ as in the first blessing, wasn’t referring to people who are just without. It refers to those who are aware that they are and always will be totally dependent on the kindness of others… beggars for kindness. In that state of spirit, there is no room for pride… there is only room for the kindness of others. When we are able to realize that we are completely dependent on God, not only for food, water, and shelter,but literally for each and every breath…then we have reached the first rung of the ladder. It is on this rung that we are taught how to see ourselves as we really are… and our way to true humility. It is from this rung that we receive the kingdom of heaven. With a strong footing on this rung, we can then start reaching up toward heaven … to become the saint we are called to be.
How is it a contradictory? If someone lacks in something than they are poor in it. The Lord plainly speaks of Spirit, and not the physical needs in the world or flesh.
If you want an excellent commentary on this I recommend Pope Benedict’s book Jesus of Nazareth. He has several pages of commentary on each of the Beatitudes.
Marcus Grodi of EWTN’s Journey Home program gave a “talk” (he is a former prebyterian minister) at one of EWTN’s “family” gatherings, several years ago, at Northern Illinois University. I think you can still purchase a set of DVD’s from that conference.
His talk was about all the beatitudes and was based on an essay centuries ago, by a guy called Cromatius of Aquilaiea.
This talk was outstanding, and I can’t understand why it has not been made available in any form (such as a booklet) independently, because Grodi did such a good job on it.
As others have said, being poor in spirit refers to being detached from “the world” and relying on God. The pattern of Grodi’s talk about each beatitude followed a certain formula: to each beatitude there is a risk and a reward. Here, the risk is to detach yourself from everything in the world, to let it go in terms of its importance in your life. The reward is that you can get to the next level, the second beatitude (blessing) of being pure in heart.
Or…something like this. I haven’t reviewed this in some time.
Grodi’s talk included a reference to a book of writings from the early church fathers. I’ve got a copy, someplace.