February 12, 2022
A Reflection from the Interpath Traditions
by Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
There is a Beloved Text in the Gospel of Luke (6: 20) in the New Testament tradition. It reads, “Blessed are you who are poor!” Jesus proclaims these powerful words as he instructs his disciples to be faithful to their hearts. There is a similar verse in the Gospel of Matthew (5: 3) with slight differences, “Blessed are the poor in spirit!” The differences are quite important.
Matthew’s text reads “poor in spirit,” suggesting openness of heart, simplicity of life, and an attitude of receptivity. Luke’s rendition is vivid and concrete inviting us to reconsider our relationship to the poor. Luke is blunt, sharp, and definitive, “you who are poor!” We can readily understand how one is blessed if one is humble, which is the meaning of “poor in spirit.” But how are the poor blessed? I suppose the only way to answer such a question is to meet the poor.
A long time ago, I was walking to the Cathedral Offices in a city where I lived and worked. It was a beautiful spring day. As I approached the plaza of the great building, I noticed a man walking over to a trash can. He was obviously poor, hungry, and in deep need of food, clothing, and shelter. My heart broke. I could only think of God’s complaint against David’s desire to build a palace for God. God reminded David; the Divine cannot be contained in a building. I have often thought of God as homeless as long as the poor have nowhere to go and nothing to eat.
The man looked into the trash. He found a half-eaten sandwich. He looked at me, saying, “May I share this with you?” I was astounded. I did not know how to respond. I thought he would ask me for help. But, instead, he offered me the treasure he found in the trash. To this day, I regret I didn’t eat with him. I made an excuse I already had something to eat. Then, turning back to his half-eaten sandwich, I heard him pray, “Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts which we are about to receive!” I was not humble enough to join him in his feast. I was stunned by his generosity and moved by his devotion. I am not sure I ever offered to share my abundance with anyone, but he was willing to share his morsel with a perfect stranger.
I suspect people like my friend are blessing the World every day. They share what little they have in inspiring, touching, and transforming ways. Jesus blessed the poor as they blessed him. He invites us to see in them the presence of the Divine.
Blessings to you, Holy Community, for all the times you graciously received the blessings of the poor.