All four of our readings this Sunday speak to that same reality: “blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” But what does that mean? Many interpretations have been given over the years, I like the approach that suggests that it refers to all who not only are poor in Spirit but who know it! The reality is that it is true for all of us—it’s the reality the Lord Jesus is pointing to when He reminds us that without Him we can do nothing. This is the same reality that St. Paul points to in reminding us that we are just the earthenware vessels that hold the great treasure.
It can take people a lifetime to finally realize that all they valued, all they hold dear, is in fact empty if they do not also possess the Lord Jesus. This was the journey of the great St. Augustine, who tried every other option until he finally had tasted the emptiness of them all and then realized that a relationship with the Lord Jesus was the only way to peace in his restless heart. As he so famously proclaimed: “You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts will not rest until they rest in You.”
But it is not enough to simply be poor in spirit, that in fact is our natural state! We must turn to the King of Kings and plead with Him to fill the poverty of our lives with the fullness of His Spirit! This is what moves us to then be able to say: “I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me!” We surrender to the Lord Jesus, and He fills our poverty with the wondrous gift of His Holy Spirit, that we may truly live for Him and accomplish what He has for us to do.
As we approach the great jubilee of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, it is a time for serious reflection for each of us on just how much do we acknowledge our own poverty and so recognize how great our need is for the great gift of His Spirit. The great heresy of personal self-sufficiency, also known as pride, is the alternative. I can do it, I can handle it, I don’t need His help. It is a trap that is altogether to close at hand and it is a trap we only avoid by walking more closely with Him. To remind ourselves everyday: without Him I can do nothing, is a great antidote to that pride. So, recognizing our need, we cry out to Him, even in the words of the prayer given to us by the great Pope St. John XXIII: “Renew Your wonders in this our day, as with a new Pentecost!”
But what would an answer to that prayer look like for us? The place to answer that question is, as always, the Word of God itself. We turn to the Scriptures, especially the Acts of the Apostles, to answer the vital question: what is the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives supposed to look like? As we read this journal of the Holy Spirit, we ask ourselves, is the Holy Spirit as present and active in my life as it is in the lives of those disciples? If we have to answer “no,” then we simply need to ask for more. There is nothing privileged about the early Church members that allowed them more of the Holy Spirit than the Lord Jesus intends for us. In point of fact, the Church has taught us that we should look at their lives as an indicator of what should be happening in ours! We should look at the Acts not as a book of history back then, but as a guidebook for today! As we read it, we plead with the Lord Jesus to be as present to us, in the power of His Holy Spirit, as He was present to those early followers, and as we make that our prayer, we know that He will answer it with more of the power of His Holy Spirit, because it was His idea in the first place.
As we approach this great jubilee, let us take advantage of every opportunity He gives us to fill our hearts with more. The Lord Jesus always wants to give us more than we are willing to receive; let us not fear to ask Him for more! — Fr. Ed