The beatitudes, proclaimed by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, reveal the path to holiness, says Pope Francis during a Mass celebrated in Rome’s Verano. Of these eight beatitudes, it is no accident that “poverty of spirit” is the first. This beatitude, from which all others flow, invites us to acknowledge the simple and fundamental truth that we are created and members of a species that is not sufficient unto itself. Of all creatures, we human beings are the poorest and the most incomplete. Our needs are always beyond our capacities, only finding their fulfillment in God, in whom the ultimate meaning of being human is hidden. Poverty of spirit is the doorway through which all must pass to become authentic human beings, it is the meeting point of heaven and earth. Ultimately, the authentic human being is the one who has been emptied and stands before God with nothing of which to boast. Though we may spend almost all of our earthly life dancing around this very point, it is moments of suffering, sickness, or even death that often speed up our coming to this realization.
Jesus also taught his followers about prayer: what it is not and how to pray (the “Our Father”). What can we learn about prayer from the Word of God made flesh? Well…prayer is a privileged and universal dialogue between child and Parent, creature and Creator, servant and Lord, bride and Bridegroom, beloved and Lover. One cannot properly pray without acknowledging that prayer is relationship. Just as in any earthly relationship, communication (both listening and speaking) is key to nurturing and maintaining the bond. For such prayer to be effective, one thing is of utmost necessity: honesty.
Lent is the time during which each Christian faithful refocuses their way of life, based on this fundamental truth of our poverty of spirit. In our Lenten prayer, the depth of our poverty is revealed to us. We learn to incorporate “Not I, but You, Lord” or “Not my will, but Your will be done” in the fabric of our life. Prayer is the ultimate realization of our humanity. It is in prayer that we realize that we are poor, that everything we possess comes from Another. It is in prayer that we discover the ultimate meaning of being human, a mystery hidden in God.
Source: Johannes Baptist Metz. Poverty of Spirit. Paulist Press