From the Pastor – January 30, 2011

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt. 5:1-3)

Who are the “poor in spirit” to whom Matthew refers in the Gospel today? The other seven of the eight beatitudes concern people who seem easy to identify (the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the clean of heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and those who are insulted and persecuted because of Jesus). But what does it mean to be “poor in spirit”?

The word “poor” comes from the Aramaic or Hebrew word anawim, which means bent down, afflicted, miserable, or poor. Although the word can mean the opposite of “rich,” the use of the word in Scripture isn’t confined to a lack of money. It has more to do with those of low estate: those who are dependent and defenseless.

As the word is used throughout the psalms, it usually refers to those who are seeking God for deliverance. These anawim are those who are dependent and defenseless, and who acknowledge their need of Divine help.

When we have all of our physical needs met, it is very easy for us to see ourselves as being in control of our destiny. We make the money, we buy the food, we feed the family and we pay the bills. And if we are having trouble with the bills, we might seek governmental or charitable assistance. And that consistency of living in a fairly prosperous world can trick us into removing God from the equation.

Perhaps for us, being poor in spirit doesn’t have anything to do with money. When we face situations that we can’t control, we might come to the realization that we really need God’s help. Many people who have suffered from depression, addiction (whether drugs, alcohol or sexual), the loss of a loved one, or simple loneliness, have come to a greater understanding that they need God to deliver them from their situation. And when brought to that low state from which only God can help, they become anawim. So if you suffer, look to God in your desperation. Become an anawim. Because they are blessed.

Rev. Msgr. Christopher H. Nalty