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Blessed are the poor in spirit

Blessed are the poor in spirit

We have entered the first period of Ordinary time – that which runs from the end of Christmastide until the beginning of Lent.  This is often a short phase – sometimes just a handful of weeks – and it can be hard to put it to much use as we find ourselves simply treading water while waiting for Lent.  This year, however, we will spend nearly two months in Ordinary time (that’s about a quarter of the whole) and so we have the opportunity to get our heads down and really make something – through the Grace of God – of this period of liturgical green.

St Matthew is our Evangelical guide, of course, and in these two months will be taking us through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7) and it would benefit us greatly if we could find a little time now to re-familiarise ourselves with the august body of teaching contained within those chapters.  To make a start, let’s look at the first of the Beatitudes:

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’

I could use the  ‘happy…’ version but it brings me out in a rash.  ‘Μακάριοι’  is the word used* and it just doesn’t mean ‘happy’.  Happiness comes and goes by chance (that’s what the ‘hap’ part means). Makarios is a joy – present here and now – that is independent of external factors (so on a personal level, it is not diminished by the foul weather or your headache or the noise going on around you).  It is deep-seated and lasting (as Jesus points out in John 16:22 – ‘Your joy no man shall take from you’).

When we have but little, we are dependent on those who have much; we know it and we are grateful for it.  The poor in spirit are dependent upon the Holy Spirit; they know it and are grateful… theoretically.  But do we see our own poverty of spirit?  Do we realise how dependent we are on the Holy Spirit?  Do we show our gratitude?

‘Theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’  If we see and acknowledge our own poverty of spirit and dependence on the Holy Spirit, then the words the Son taught us to use when addressing Our Father will become reality: ‘Thy Kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’

So, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. Those who see and acknowledge that emptiness inside and realise that it needs to be filled with God (for nothing else will fill it sufficiently) are blessed (here and now – it’s not a future promise) with the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit; a joy that fulfills and a joy that lasts.

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