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Father Anthony Ho

‘Poor in spirit’ doesn’t just mean poor

Voices April 10, 2019

Saint Francis in the Desert by Giovanni Bellini. A biographer pointed out that Francis’ spirit of poverty stemmed from his utter reliance on and love for God. (Wikipedia)

The first Beatitude is “Blessed is the poor in spirit.” Christ was born poor, lived poor and died poor. Throughout the ages, the saints imitated Christ in his poverty. St. Jacinta of Fatima said, “Fly from riches and luxury; love poverty and silence.” Pope St. Pius X wrote in his last will: “I was born poor, I have lived poor, I wish to die poor.”

Christ repeatedly warned against the danger of wealth. Material goods can easily create a false sense of security in our heart. However, our security should be rooted in God. St. Catherine of Siena pointed out that material things are not reliable. We might lose them during our lifetime, and when we die we certainly cannot take them with us.

The pursue and the care for material things can easily occupy our heart and distract us from the pursue of eternal life. Life is a journey and our distinction is heaven.

St. Ignatius of Loyola’s first principle and foundation helps us to have the right attitudes toward created things:

“God created human beings to praise, reverence, and serve God, and by doing this, to save their souls. God created all other things on the face of the earth to help fulfill this purpose. From this it follows that we are to use the things of this world only to the extent that they help us to this end, and we ought to rid ourselves of the things of this world to the extent that they get in the way of this end. For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things as much as we are able, so that we do not necessarily want health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honour rather than dishonour, a long rather than a short life, and so in all the rest, so that we ultimately desire and choose only what is most conducive for us to the end for which God created us.”

The opposite of “poor in spirit” is “rich in spirit.” St. Francis de Sales wrote: “By rich in spirit I mean him whose riches engross his mind, or whose mind is buried in his riches. He is poor in spirit whose heart is not filled with the love of riches, whose mind is not set upon them.”

St. John of the Cross wrote, “It is not the things of this world that occupy and harm the soul, because they do not penetrate it, but rather the desire for them which resides within it.”

Hence the spirit of detachment is key to practise the beatitude of “poor in spirit.”

The saints remind us that we are not the owners of material things but stewards. St. Francis de Sales wrote, “My child, our possessions are not ours; God has given them to us to cultivate, that we may make them fruitful and profitable in His Service, and so doing we shall please Him.”

St. Francis of Assisi inspired countless people to embrace the life of poverty. As a young man, he experienced a year as a hostage and a serious sickness. At 25 he began to care for the sick. Francis was not afraid to take the Gospel literally, and he contemplated Christ Crucified.

Francis and his followers imitated the Apostles by going out to preach in poverty. Free from disordered attachment to creatures, Francis loved all creatures in Christ, and not apart from him. A biographer pointed out that Francis’ spirit of poverty stemmed from his utter reliance on and love for God.

St. Francis prayed: “May the power of your love, O Lord, fiery and sweet as honey, wean my heart from all that is under heaven so that I may die for love of your love. You who were so good as to die for love of my love.”

 

                                    「神貧的人是有福的」 

「真福」首端是「神貧的人是有福的」。基督生於貧窮、活於貧窮,亦死於貧窮。世紀以來,聖賢都效法基督的神貧。花地瑪的聖雅仙達說過:「離開富裕和奢侈;愛慕神貧和靜默。」教宗聖庇約十世在他的最後遺願中,寫道:「我出生貧窮,我活在貧窮,也願死在貧窮。」

基督重複警告富裕的危險。物質容易在我們心中製做安全感的假象;我們的安全感應該紮根於全能的天主。聖女嘉琳指出,物質並不可靠,我們可能會在瞬間失去;而在死時我們不能把物質帶走。

醉心及專注物質,都容易佔據我們的心,忽略渴慕永生。生命是一個旅程,我們的終點是天堂。聖依納爵的第一項原則和基礎,幫助我們用正確的態度,去看待受造物:「天主創造人類,是為要人類讚美、欽崇和侍奉祂,亦藉此,人類得救自己的靈魂;天主創造了其它世物,使能幫助達到此目的。因此,我們只應該利用世物達到此目的,我們也要擺脫阻撓我們達到此目的的世物。為此,我們需要盡量令自己對世物不在乎,因而不需要盼望健康多於疾病,富裕多於貧窮,榮譽多於屈辱,長壽多於短命,以及其他的東西。所以,我們最終是渴求和選擇那最能幫助我們達到天主創造我們的目的的東西。」

相對神貧就是心儀富貴。聖方濟.沙雷指出:渴慕富貴的人,他們的心被財富獨占 ,財迷心竅。神貧的人心不會被財富占有,頭腦也不會專注財富。」聖十字架若望亦寫道:「世物不會侵佔及傷害靈魂,因為它們不能滲入我們的心,而是對它們的渴求寓於心內。」無疑,脫離世物的心是遜守神貧的鑰匙。

聖賢們提醒我們,我們並非物質的主人,而是代管人。聖方濟.沙雷寫道:「我的女兒,我們的財物不屬於我們,而是天主交給我們予以培植,在侍奉天主中結出善果和益處,我們這樣作以鍾悅天主。」

聖方濟各感染了很多人擁抱神貧的生活。當他還年青時,聖人曾作人質一年,又經歷大病;二十五歲那年,他開始關懷患病的人。他熱誠地實踐福音,並默觀苦架上的基督;他和他的神子們,效法宗徒們在神貧中傳教,聖方濟各雖然愛惜天主所有創造,但從不偏離天主,他神貧的精神,植根於對天主的愛和信賴。

聖方濟各祈禱說:「我主!願祢熾熱和甘甜的愛之德能;把我的心從天下事物根斷,好讓我因愛祢的愛而死。 祢真良善,竟因愛我的愛而死!」