Poverty

“We ask the Lord, in this Advent season, to bring us nearer to his mystery and to do so the way that He wants us to do: the way of humility, the way of meekness, the way of poverty, the road where we feel sin. So that he can come to save us, to free us. May the Lord give us this grace.”
-Pope Francis

http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-mass-a-humble-heart-knows-god-theology-is-don

Christmas and Poverty

Christmas is all about poverty. All of the kindness, the gift-giving, the feasting, the joking, the singing, are all about poverty.

In remembrance of the birth of the God who made Himself poor, so that we might thereby be rich, we are humbled and exalted in a thousand different ways. We spend more than we supposedly should, because we are giving inspired by the Poor Babe in the manger. We sing and play together, because we are but children, hoping in a newborn King. We gather together, to offer ourselves for the Child’s sake to all the Child has himself come for, and to together be there for him. We feast, knowing that in this Poor Babe we are rich, and that our riches are in giving, not receiving. We welcome all, to join us in the love and jubilation of Christmas. Children hang their stockings, hoping for a random act of kindness from a great Saint. Parents imitate the great Saint’s good deeds. On Christmas day, we wear our paper crowns and are all royalty; all lowliness is crowned by the Son of God’s birth, and all royalty rightly bows down before the Poor Babe in a manger.

There is truly only one real threat to Christmas, and that is the idea of a rich Christmas: A Christmas of exchange, of socialising, of enjoying each other’s company, but without any lowliness, any poverty; the idea that Christmas is a set of products and mutually beneficial social activities. It is an affordable Christmas, and a profitable time of leisure. But it is not the feast of the God who was born a baby and laid in a manger; it is not the feast of the God of unlimited, unreasonable giving. When it doesn’t welcome, when it doesn’t lavish, when it doesn’t humbly offer each person to the others, when there is no graciousness, it ceases to be Christmas.

I wish it could be Christmas everyday

Honestly, it should be. I suppose we cannot feast everyday, but we can be as humble and generous and poor, and so as rich, every day. We should always imitate the lowliness and love of our God, as revealed in His incarnation and birth to a virgin. Of course, it’s not easy, but nothing radical ever is.

God bless you, and Merry Christmas!

P.S. I’m currently reading Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ for the first time, and absolutely loving it. This thought came to me while I was reading it. So far, it’s genuinely amazing, and I already can’t recommend it enough.

P.P.S. I forgot to make the point, that therefore Christmas is best understood and celebrated by “the least of these, my brothers”.

Jesus rejected

Jesus was laid in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Before he had even been born, he was being rejected. And this was the way throughout his entire life, culminating in his crucifixion. He often offended those with any authority, position, or respectability, and was, by the usual measure of influence, a failure. Everyone who was anyone had something against him. It was with the failures, the useless, and the rejects, the poor, the disabled, and the unrighteous, that Jesus was accepted.

Why? I believe it is Jesus’ generosity and meekness. Jesus gave himself so unreservedly, that he was truly free. He wasn’t aiming for any repayment, and so his gifts were entirely his own, and for his own purposes. When he preached, it wasn’t to gain followers to satisfy his vanity or desire for power, but simply to bless, liberate and save whoever would listen. By his life and teaching, he presented in complete freedom, the truly good life; and so his perfect generosity, was completely demanding.

No matter how rich, powerful, or respectable you might be, there is no way you could bribe or lobby Jesus; and nothing made them feel so powerless. All who considered themselves rich, whether by wealth, power, or even righteousness before God, found this man a mad fool, driven by demons to be in all ways poor and lowly, when he might be great and rich. And his staunch and mindless poverty, by its disregard weakened their own richness, and was spreading to all the lowly of the world.

The only people who would accept Jesus, were those who knew themselves to be truly poor, with no hope of buying this man. Only the poor can truly accept a gift. And so Jesus was sent to the poor, the lame, the blind, the prostitutes, the sinners and tax collectors, to welcome them, to be most truly and uncontrollably theirs.

‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.’ Matthew 5:3

When Jesus was dying upon the cross, it was only the man dying beside him who asked to be remembered, and was then promised to be with him paradise. Only those with nothing but the mercy of others, can accept a crucified saviour. For anyone else, he is too ugly, too messy, too weak.

Yet, even nailed to the cross, he is radically free, because he is always giving. In his injuries he gives forgiveness, in his suffering he gives love, in his death he gives life. He accepts the crucifixion meekly, but then blesses it with the resurrection. He enters all weakness, and provides God’s creative strength. As St. Francis said,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, let me sow pardon.
Where there is doubt, let me sow faith.
Where there is despair, let me sow hope.
Where there is darkness, let me sow light.
Where there is sadness, let me sow joy.

And so we may see the truth of Jesus’ words,

‘Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.’ Mt 5:5

It is the meek, the undemanding, who are truly free, and shall truly liberate. They are rejected, and they are lowly, but they scatter their seed freely, and it bears fruit. They live love, and the lowly learn love from them, and the world is transformed from its base. In the midst of their rejection, they build solidarity; In sin, they forgive; In division they bring unity; In conflict they make peace; In hatred they love; and in all things, they bear the almighty God, who to bring down the powerful from their thrones and uplift the lowly (Lk 1:52) was incarnate, born as a baby, and laid in a manger.

Lord, reveal to me my poverty, and teach me your meekness.

God bless you