Monday, September 8, 2008

Acknowledge Your Poverty

by Monsignor Dennis Clark, Ph.D.

Catholic Exchange

September 8th, 2008

Mi 5:1-4 or Rom 8:28-30 / Mt 1:1-16,18-23 or 1:18-23

The first of the eight beatitudes has a hidden wisdom waiting for us. The literal reading, of course, is, “Blessed are you poor, the reign of God is yours.” In a word, God is going to GIVE the poor the kingdom, for no reason except that God is generous.

The same beatitude, however, can be read on another level, “Blessed are you who KNOW you are poor….” Recognizing that deep down we are all poor, and that we own nothing at all, not even our own lives, comes slowly to many of us. Having a decent supply of this world’s goods can insulate us from the facts of our situation as creatures. We can take ourselves too seriously. And unless we’re brought up short by some tragedy, we can think that we’re quite self-sufficient and can dispense with bothering too much with God. An occasional bow in his direction will suffice — we think.

In fact, that’s a recipe for disaster, because it locks out God. It’s that sin of presumption which the old catechism warned us was unforgivable, because it says, “I don’t need God’s help,” which is the biggest lie of them all. In that circumstance, a wake-up call, even if it comes in the form of a tragedy, is a blessing, because it gets us back to reality. It gets the doors open and lets God in.

The stakes here are high, so some serious questions are in order:

Have you faced what it means to own nothing, not even your own life? Have you really accepted the fact that everything you have is strictly on loan, even your greatest talents? Has that recognition led you to a deep gratitude and a total reliance on God?

If so, you’re on your way, and the kingdom of God will be yours. If not, you’re in trouble and don’t even know it. But you will. So don’t wait for a painful wake-up call. Face the facts now, and give your life into God’s hands. In the end, he’s the only one who can save you, and that’s exactly what he wants to do.


We may not express our deep gratitude and total reliance on God in exactly the same way that Matt Talbot did or to the extent that he did, but our challenge is simply to do it, each and every day.