Here I am, Lord. - John Michael Talbot, SFO

Monday, May 10, 2010

Poverty teaches us two things: how terribly Christ suffered and how powerful the love was that compelled Him to suffer for US!

We know how much Francis loved his 'lady Poverty'.  He saw poverty as a way to become free - free from sin (which separates us from God) but also from worry about getting and holding on to 'things' which are, in effect, just  'dust in the wind'. Poverty allows one to focus on the Source of these gifts and realize God will  provide 'our daily bread'!

Francis  strongly identified with beggars even before he "left the world". Francis once went to Rome, bought the ragged clothes of a beggar and joined the throngs of beggars in the streets.  He wanted to experience the life of a beggar first hand - it's hardships and humiliations - because Jesus 'though rich, became poor for love of us'.  Francis wanted to know what Jesus felt - how hard His life was - so that he could more fully understand His love.  Later, by choice He became the Lord's beggar and begging was adopted into the Rule of life for  the friars.

St. Francis tells us: When you see a poor person, you ought to consider Him in Whose name he comes, Christ that is, who took our poverty and infirmity on Himself.  For such a person's infirmity and poverty is a kind of mirror for us, in which we ought to behold with pitying regard the infirmity and poverty which our Lord Jesus Christ bore in His person for our sake." 

Begging is the desperate act of the poor to keep body and soul together. All people want to feel in control of their lives but those who beg are admitting to everyone that they can't meet their own basic needs. Their situations requires them to depend on the kindness of others and often the 'others' are not so kind.  Rejection and humiliation are two of the occupational hazards of begging.

Beggars suffer humiliation in numerous ways.  Even if people do not verbally abuse the beggar, the tone of voice, a critical eye, can pierce to the heart.  Also there are those who draw sadistic pleasure at the beggar's plight and aren't afraid to 'rub it in', laughing at the beggar to demean them further.  Other cruel individuals will actually spit upon, yell at, push away and even beat the beggar who gets in their way.  What makes the poor mans situation even worse is that, even after exposing himself to humiliation (and abuse), he still might not get what he needs and so . . . must keep on begging, opening himself to even more rejection and humiliation!  This ordeal is made worse for those beggars who must beg while suffering the pain and weakness that comes from hunger, exposure (poor clothing and/or no shelter), illness and mental or physical disabilities.  It is not like a beggar can call out sick from his work!

Francis said we should, "consider Him in Whose name he comes, Christ".  There was a standard phrase used by beggars, "For the love of Christ, please help me . . .".  Those the beggar addresses, like the beggar himself, have all experienced the merciful kindness of God.  This experience SHOULD make our hearts tender and ready, when given the opportunity, to help others in need.  God's love for us creates an obligation to care for others and especially for those who are suffering.

Francis points out that Jesus identified with the poor (with us!) by taking "our poverty and infirmity on Himself".  Suffering is our due (the consequence for our sins) but we know Jesus never did anything wrong, never did anything deserving punishment. No matter the shape we find Him in (when encountering a poor person), it is only right to be kind and considerate since it is for us that He is suffering. Jesus made it clear that He is the poor person standing in front of us so, when noting His miserable state, we must not forget that He had all the power, glory, wisdom and wealth of the universe - but gave it all up . . . for love of us.

Francis points out that the "person's infirmity and poverty is a kind of mirror for us, in which we ought to behold with pitying regard the infirmity and poverty which our Lord Jesus Christ bore in His person for our sake"When Francis saw the abject poverty of the poor he felt compassion for Jesus who suffered all of the miseries of the poor - hunger, thirst, nakedness, humiliation, abuse - during His life and in His passion. Jesus, reflected in the mirror of the poor man, caused Francis to deeply consider the love that compelled Him to become the lowest of the low, the poorest of the poor. Seeing poverty, illness, disability, mental illness, in others hurt Francis deeply and he tried hard to alleviate pain and sorrow wherever he found it. Francis' heart was wounded by Jesus' pain as seen in the pain, sorrow and misery of the poor..  

As followers and friends of Francis we must also allow our hearts to be wounded for Christ in the poor.  We must learn to see Christ, with the eyes of faith, in the poor, feel gratitude for the love that put Him in this state and respond with the same kind of love that compelled Him to suffer for us and . . . we must try our hardest to take care of our dear Jesus, standing in front of us, with out-stretched hand.


KAM said...

Excellent! I give this a 'must read'. k

covnitkepr1 said...

I’ve enjoyed looking over your blog. I came across it through another blog I follow, and I’m glad I did. I am now a follower of yours as well. Feel free to look over my blog and perhaps become one as well.

brother Joseph, SFO said...

Peace and good to you brother Kam. You are very kind to comment and I'm glad God blessed you. I visited your blog and, as you can tell from my comment, I REALLY enjoyed your's as well. You truly are 'a good and faithful servant'! God bless you my brother!

And brother Stan. I did visit your blog and it was a lot of fun! I can tell from your profile that you are a very fervent, very sincere, follower of Jesus and also . . . my brother! Alleluia! I will also be visiting you blog. By the way there is a sister blog to this one called Poverello Pebbles at http://www.poverellopebbles.blogspot. I am trying to be a bit more 'personal' in it but, of course, with my eyes 'ever on the prize'. This prize is great because we can ALL win it - in Christ. Your brother and servant always, in Jesus.