“Blessed are the poor in Spirit” are the familiar words that begin the 8 beatitudes. The New English Bible translates it differently: “Blessed are those who know their need of God.” Poverty is knowing that I have a need for God, a need for others.
In January of 1992 I went with two friends to El Salvador. There in the high lands of El Salvador, in the mountain village of San Martin, I experienced God’s presence. An entire village from another part of the country, fleeing the fighting that was going on in their region, had come to San Martin. The people of San Martin showed them houses that they could live in and led them to the community center where there were two silos filled with grain and said to them: “This one is yours.” I felt humbled. The words of St. Paul are fitting: “God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something.”
Ilia Delio writes: “True Poverty creates community because it converts self-sufficiency into creative interdependency where the mystery of life unfolds for us. Only those who can see and feel for another can love another without trying to possess that other. Poverty is that free and open space within the human heart that enables us to listen to the other, to respect the other and to trust the other without feeling that something vital will be taken from us. Conversion to poverty and humility is the foundation of wholeness because it is the movement to authentic love – a movement from isolation toward union, from individualism toward communion, where Christ is birthed in the web of life.”
St. Francis saw himself as part of creation; that all creation was his family. The sultan, the lepers, the beggars, his fellow brothers; all were received with open arms. He possessed nothing and wanted nothing; believing that the desire to possess keeps us apart from one another and from all God’s creation.
Leonardo Boff wrote: “The eternal destiny of human beings will be measured by how much or how little solidarity we have displayed with the hungry, the thirsty, the naked and the oppressed. In the end we will be judged in terms of love.” And, as St. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, may that be a love that does not seek its own interests.