“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matt. 5:3)
How can poverty be a richness?
We all want to be rich, but no matter how rich we are, we all have limitations. For instance, we are so attracted to anything unlimited. Unlimited wings, unlimited rice, unlimited text, etc. But although it’s unlimited, we have our limits. Maybe after 20 chicken wings, we don’t want to eat chicken again! Or if you have your 10th refill of rice, you feel that you need to stop. But poverty is not limited to a financial or material lack. Some are also poor intellectually. Or even morally and spiritually. Our poverty can come from our qualities. Like perhaps you think you’re too young or too old. You think you lack the skill and the confidence. Or you lack the training and the education. But do you know that the greatest poverty is not being hungry or homeless or dumb? The greatest poverty is actually sin. Sin keeps us away from the greatest Good, who is God. Sin separates us from Love. But the greatest irony is that Jesus came because of our sin. And as St. Paul says: “where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more” (Rom. 5:20). When St. Paul was struggling over his weaknesses, the Lord told him: “my grace is sufficient for you for my power is perfected in your weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9) We can see here how God is not limited or paralyzed by our sinfulness. In fact, it is in this sinfulness that God shows us His greatest love. It doesn’t mean that we should sin, because we already have sinned. But the grace of God is most powerful when we lay down our poverty before Him and allow Him to take over. Remember Sarah and Elizabeth. These are just two women characters in the Bible who were barren. For the Israelites being barren is like a curse. It’s like the greatest poverty for a woman not to have children. Unlike the beliefs of the present generation, having many children is for them a sign of God’s favor. Yet if we read their stories, it is because of this barrenness that God manifested His glory in their lives. Even though they were barren, they were able to bear a child in their old age. The Lord is the giver of life and “nothing is impossible with God.” (Lk. 1:37) Then we come to the Virgin Mary. She considers herself the handmaid of the Lord, the lowly servant. Unlike Sarah and Elizabeth, Mary is a virgin. She had no relations with a man. But then again, God is greater than our limitations. The Angel said: “The Holy Spirit will come down upon you”. (Lk. 1:35) The lowly handmaid is given the greatest treasure – God Himself to be in her womb. Mary sings her Magnificat in Elizabeth’s home, and in her song, she tells us how the Lord has filled the hungry with good things and lifted up the lowly. She tells us of the mercy and faithfulness of God through all generations. Jesus, the fruit of her womb is the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise. We see here the constancy and faithfulness of God to His people.
In our life, we have many weaknesses. We are poor in many ways. We experience financial difficulty, stress, sadness, sickness, even depression. But when we come before the Lord and accept our poverty and nothingness before Him, He will surely fill what is lacking in us. In fact, He will fill us with Himself and our poverty, our distress, can become a richness.
“The theme for this retreat struck me, being reminded that we are not God but creatures – creatures with limits. But I am more astonished hearing that limits can be gifts. I, myself, am always faced with my limits. There are times that I battle with my mind because I often put a limit to everything that I can do and I can be. But I guess they say your limit can be a gift because it is where God can enter. We are broken in some ways and oftentimes we try so hard to make ourselves whole by filling it with passing things. But in truth, only one thing or person who can really fill it-and it is God, the ultimate good. Our poverty is our richness because it is where God can act. I know in my life that I need Mary to teach me to be humble like her, to allow God to act in my life despite my weaknesses and incapacities. Because in faith I want to believe that with God all things are possible. So, I want to be like Mary in faith, hope and charity, where ‘my poverty can be a richness’ with respect to mission. I can do this by acting on His word, like Mary did.” – Christale Joy Flores (Kaire Member, Advent Retreat 2019 Participant)
Kaire (a Greek word which literally means Rejoice), is a group of young professionals guided by the Brothers and Sisters of St. John. They had their Advent Retreat last Nov. 30 – Dec. 1, 2019 at the St. John Priory in Banawa, Cebu City. Their theme for this year is: “Your Poverty is a Richness.” The text above is a summary of the three conferences during the retreat given by Sr. Paul Marie, ASSJ, Br. Jean Savio, csj, and Br. Samuel Mary, csj. Kaire has three (3) cell groups: Fides, Spes & Caritas, Latin words for Faith, Hope and Love. Christale or “Tale”, as she is fondly called, is a member of Caritas. She shares her personal insight on her experience in this year’s retreat. Everyone is invited to join the Kaire Holy Hour every first Thursday of the month at the Ayala Chapel in the 4th Floor of Ayala Mall, Cebu Business Park, Cebu City.