The Beatitudes sketch out a way of life for us. They urge us to be poor in spirit, meek and humble, and hungry for God’s justice. They call us to be merciful toward others, pure of heart in all we do, and willing to suffer persecution for the sake of the gospel (Matthew 5:3-12).
Through the centuries, many saints and scholars have said that one Beatitude stands as a cornerstone for all the others: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). They have urged us to come to Jesus with a disposition of spiritual poverty. They have taught that we cannot grow in our spiritual life without Jesus’ grace. They have invited us to confess our deep need for Jesus and his presence so that we can live the life he has called us to.
Seeing My Need. As I look back on my life, I can see points where the Lord was teaching me to become poor in spirit. Of course, I am far from perfect, but I have learned a few things. First, I was born with water on the brain, and the doctors didn’t expect me to live more than two years. But my mother kept praying, asking Mary to intercede for me, and I was inexplicably healed. So I have a dramatic sign that my whole life is a gift from God.
Second, I experienced a deep conversion thirty-nine years ago. My life changed powerfully on that day in May of 1971. I felt a power in me that was not of me. It was so profound and so magnificent that I still consider it the best day of my life. My whole outlook on life changed. From that point on, I wanted to spend my life serving Jesus.
The third example has to do with Confession. Prior to my conversion, the only sins I could think of were the times when I told a lie, swore, or fought with one of my brothers or sisters. I would receive absolution, say my prayers for penance, and then I was on my way. But after my conversion, I saw how self-centered my life really was. I wanted to be at the center of everything. It was all about getting my way, my food, my golf, my football, and my clothes. I saw how small I was and how petty my concerns were in comparison to Jesus who died for me—and it humbled me deeply.
I could go on, but these examples help explain why I set my mind on being poor in spirit each day. I need Jesus. I can’t go a day without him. Each day I thank and praise him for what he did for me and for how much he loves me. I love Jesus and I want him to rule my life. I know that the only way for that to happen is if I come to him poor in spirit. May God bless us all with more poverty of spirit!