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POPE’S GENERAL AUDIENCE: On the Beatitudes (Continued…) [FULL TEXT]

Holy Father Reflects on What It Means to Be Poor in Spirit

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This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:15 am in Paul VI Hall, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.

Continuing with the new series of catecheses on the Beatitudes, in his address in Italian the Pope focused his meditation on the first Beatitude: Blessed are the poor in spirit (Biblical passage: From the Gospel according to Matthew <5: 3-12>.

After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present.

The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.

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The Holy Father’s Catechesis

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

We are confronted today with the first of the eight Beatitudes of Matthew’s Gospel. Jesus begins to proclaim His way for happiness with a paradoxical announcement: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven, “a surprising way and a strange object of beatitude: poverty.

We must ask ourselves, what we understand here by “poor”? If Matthew only used this word, then the meaning would be simply economic, that is, it would indicate people that have little or no means of sustenance and need the help of others.

However, as opposed to Luke, Matthew’s Gospel speaks of the “poor in spirit.” What does it mean? According to the Bible, the spirit is the breath of life that God communicated to Adam. It is our most intimate dimension — let’s say the spiritual dimension, the most intimate, that which makes us human persons, the profound nucleus of our being. Then the “poor in spirit” are those that are and feel themselves poor, beggars, in the depth of their being. Jesus proclaims them blessed, for to them the Kingdom of Heaven belongs.

How many times the contrary has been said! It’s necessary to be something in life, to be someone . . . It’s necessary to make a name for oneself . . . It’s from this that loneliness and unhappiness is born: if I must be “someone,” I am in competition with others and I live with obsessive preoccupation for my ego. If I don’t accept being poor, I hate all that reminds me of my fragility, because this fragility impedes my becoming an important person, a rich person not only of money but of fame, of everything.

Facing oneself, each one knows well that, however busy he is, he always remains radically incomplete and vulnerable. There is no makeup that covers this vulnerability. Each one of us is vulnerable inside, we must see where.  However, how badly one lives if one rejects one’s limitations! One lives badly. The limitation isn’t digested; it’s there. Proud people don’t ask for help, they can’t ask for help, it doesn’t occur to them to ask for help because they must demonstrate themselves self-sufficient. And how many of them are in need of help, but pride impedes their asking for help. And how difficult it is to admit an error and ask for pardon! When I give advice to newlyweds, who ask me how to live well their marriage, I say to them: “There are three magic words: permission, thanks, sorry.” They are words that stem from poverty of spirit. It’s not necessary to be intrusive, but to ask permission: “Do you think it’s ok to do this?” So, there is dialogue in the family; wife and husband converse. “You did this for me, thank you I needed it.” Then, errors are always made, one slips: “Sorry.” And usually the couples, the newlyweds, those that are here and are so many, say to me: “The third is the most difficult,” to apologize, to ask for forgiveness, because the proud person can’t. He can’t say sorry: he’s always right. He isn’t poor in spirit. Instead, the Lord never tires of forgiving. Unfortunately, it is we who get tired of asking for forgiveness (Cf. Angelus, March 17, 2013). Tiredness of asking for forgiveness: this is an awful sickness!

Why is it difficult to ask for forgiveness? It is difficult because it humiliates our hypocritical image. And yet, to live trying to hide are own deficiencies is tiring and anguishing. Jesus Christ says to us: to be poor is an occasion of grace, and He shows us the way out of this difficulty. We are given the right to be poor in spirit, because this is the way to the Kingdom of God.

However, there is one fundamental thing to reiterate: we must not transform ourselves to become poor in spirit, we don’t have to do a transformation because we already are so! We are poor . . . or more clearly: we are “poor things” in spirit! We are in need of everything. We are all poor in spirit; we are beggars. It’s the human condition.

The Kingdom of God is of the poor in spirit. There are those that have the kingdoms of this world: they have goods and they have ease, but they are kingdoms that end; the power of men, even the greatest of empires pass and disappear. So often we see on the TV news or in the newspapers that a ruler is strong, powerful or that a government that was yesterday, today is no longer, it has fallen. The riches of this world pass away as does money. The old taught us that the shroud has no pockets. It’s true. I’ve never seen behind a funeral procession a truck for the move: no one takes anything. The riches stay here.

The Kingdom of God is of the poor in spirit. There are those that have the kingdoms of this world, they have goods and have ease, but we know how they end. He truly reigns who is able to love the true good more than himself. And this is the power of God. In what did Jesus show Himself powerful? In being able to do what the kings of the earth don’t do: to give His life for men. And this is true power, the power of fraternity, the power of charity, the power of love, the power of humility. Christ did this.

In this is true freedom: one who has this power of humility, of service, of fraternity is free. At the service of this freedom is the poverty praised by the Beatitudes.

Because there is a poverty we must accept, that of our being, and a poverty that, instead, we must seek, that concrete one of the things of this world, to be free and to be able to love. We must always seek freedom of the heart, that which has its roots in the poverty of ourselves.

[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

In Italian 

A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking faithful. In particular, I greet the Participants in the Meeting promoted by the Center of Priestly Formation of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross; and those in the course promoted by the International Center of Missionary Animation (CIAM).

I greet, moreover, the Pharmaceutical Bank Foundation of Milan, and the Educational Institutions, in particular that of Saint Agatha of Militello. Finally, I greet the young people, the elderly, the sick and the newlyweds. May the Lord sustain with His Grace the resolution to build the Church with our sacrifices, overcoming our egoisms and putting ourselves at the service of the Gospel.

[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
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