Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
By way of explanation, this feast in honor of all the Saints goes back to the
year 610 when Pope Boniface IV rededicated the Pantheon (the pagan temple
dedicated to all the “gods”) as a Catholic Church named for “Mary and the
Martyrs.” In the early days, almost all of the saints were martyrs, for it was
relatively easy to know that they had died confessing the Faith of Jesus
Christ—the inquiries into the holiness of people who died natural deaths came
sometime later. Pope Gregory IV (827-844) confirmed the November 1 date, while
extending the feast to the whole Church, honoring all the saints (not just the
today is from the Sermon on the Mount—the enumeration of those who are
“blessed.” It has always seemed to me that most of the Beatitudes are pretty
straight-forward, but that one might ask, just what does our Lord mean by the
“poor in spirit”? Are they somehow different from those who are simply
poor—those who have few possessions and resources in this world? Most spiritual
writers would say that a number of people can be called “poor in spirit.”
group would include those who find themselves in economic poverty in spite of an
effort to improve their lot, but who accept their position in life as part of
God’s plan. This would seem to exclude those who have brought poverty upon
themselves through laziness and find it convenient to live on the public
dole—but would not exclude those who are genuinely trying to better themselves
and need a little charity to get by. Indeed, these poor provide the opportunity
for “the merciful” who are also blessed by our Lord, to show mercy.
The “poor in
spirit” would also include those who have chosen to live the life of evangelical
poverty in the religious life—the nuns and the monks and the friars who may even
come from well-to-do backgrounds, but have denied themselves the use of material
goods in order to live a more spiritual life, closer to God.
blessed “poor in spirit” must include those who give so generously to those in
need as to leave themselves with very little. We might say that these are
“doubly blessed,” for these poor are also among the “merciful.”
The monks and the nuns may also fit into this
category, for they are often able to be involved in works of charity because of
their abstemious lives.
would also include those whose property was taken by evil people or simple
misfortune, but who do nothing vindictive or dishonest to regain their wealth.
These maintain their composure and continue to respect the belongings of others,
accepting their misfortune as part of God’s plan.
Above all, the
“poor in spirit” are the humble—they may be poor or wealthy, but they don’t
think of themselves as being particularly special. They know that whatever
gifts and abilities they possess come mostly from God, and that they are no
better or worse than the people around them. They never go about flaunting the
good things they have.
is important for it is the only antidote to inordinate pride—pride which is at
the root of virtually all the sins of men and devils. It is important for
having humility is being Christ‑like.
never been a more perfect man than Jesus Christ. Possessing the powers of God,
He could have had riches beyond imagination, done anything that appealed to Him,
gone anywhere He wanted. But our Lord was the quintessence of humility: He was
born in a primitive culture, lived in a backwater town, with relatively poor and
humble parents, whom He assisted with His manual labor. The King of Kings was
born in a stable, and put down to rest in the animals’ feed box. “The son of
man hath not where to lay his head.”
No greater humility is imaginable!
the humble, for they are Christ‑like in their humility. Blessed are the poor in
spirit—those who imitate Jesus, and Mary, and Joseph, making themselves like
little children in their lowliness. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs
is the kingdom of heaven!