4th Sunday of Ordinary Time
03 FEBRUARY 2002
Deacon Todd Goodson
Scriptual Reference: Zep 2:3, 3:12-13; Psalm 146:7-10; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; Matthew 5:1-12a

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit for Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

       Since entering Saint Meinrad School of Theology four and a half years ago, I have learned about many great historical figures that helped shape the church that we have today. One of my favorites was the old Archbishop of San Salvador named Oscar Arnulfo Romero. He was born in the eastern portion of El Salvador to family that was not particularly religious, yet he rose to become one of the greatest Church figures of the 20th century. He was archbishop from 1977-1980 in a country ravaged by civil war, extreme poverty and violence. In the midst of this Romero chose to align himself with the poor of his country whose families were often the victims of bloodshed and terrible living conditions. He refused to attend government functions until conditions of justice were met, a controversial act in this heavily Catholic country. He made regular visits to the poor and his door was always open to anyone who came to him, His rectory became known as a haven for all who suffered. His poverty of spirit empowered his poorer brothers and sisters to work for peaceful justice. Like many great figures who worked for justice Romero's life was cut short by an assassin's bullet in 1980. Nonetheless, his poverty of Spirit gave him great confidence in the kingdom of heaven. Two weeks before his death he declared: "I must tell you, as a Christian, I do not believe in death without resurrection, If I am killed, I will rise again in the Salvadoran people."

       Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

       Last year I had the opportunity to study Spanish in Guatemala for an entire semester. As some of you may know Guatemala is no stranger to poverty and in the city where I studied it was not uncommon to find people, sometimes entire families, sleeping on the streets at night. Around 5 o'clock each evening I would attend Mass at church near my school. Once every couple of weeks or so a lady would come into the church, to pray. I remember her not just because of her dirty and disheveled appearance but because she yelled. She would kneel before the crucifix, near the front of Church yelling, crying, and moaning her petitions to the Lord. I arrived early one particular evening and noticed her there, shouting her petitions to the Lord. No one seemed to really pay her any attention until Mass was about to begin. Then a priest came by and asked her to lower her voice. With a little coaxing, she eventually complied, but then during the mass she walked back and forth through-out the entire Church. She walked up to each statue in the church, Jesus, Mary, St. Francis, and continued to quietly present her prayers to them. As I watched her she did something simple I will never forget, she repeatedly kissed each statue on the feet and then left the church. I saw her later that night asleep on a sidewalk near my house.

       Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

       I entered seminary when I was 27 years old. A few years before becoming a seminarian, I felt I had a pretty good life. I had graduated college with a psychology degree and was working for a Behavioral Health center as a crisis intervention therapist. I was an active musician, I played in a band with some friends, and I even had a girlfriend. I had always gone to church, and at some point during this time I began to really take my faith in God more seriously. When I did so, things that were once important to me began to fade away. The band that I was in moved to another town, my girlfriend got a job teaching English in another country. I reached a point in my life where everything that I once treasured was now gone, All I had was God and whatever God would give me. God had weakened me a little, taken away some of my independence and my ability to rely on myself. As a result, I had nowhere to turn but God. I learned an important lesson: I could not follow the Spirit of God unless my own Spirit was weakened a little. Had I not done this I would not be here before you today.

       Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

       One of the many joys of being a deacon and future priest, is the opportunities I get to share in the beautiful moments of people's lives. A few weeks ago, I went with a priest to the home of a parishioner. He was an elderly man, who was pretty close to death. Weak in both body and spirit he had asked to be anointed before he died. After the priest heard his confession, this man's entire family crammed into his tiny little bedroom and together we joined our hands and prayed the our Father. We prayed for God to be with him on his journey to the kingdom of heaven, a kingdom where he will receive the love of God for all eternity. However, what made this moment so powerful, was the love of God that was made present right there in that tiny little room. In the weakest moment of his life this man managed to unite his entire family around him in love, support, and prayer. He didn't ask them to come, he didn't promise them anything, they were there simply because they loved him. Only weakness can call forth that kind of love, only weakness can make us powerful enough to receive the kingdom of heaven, the love of Christ into our lives. That afternoon in his bedroom, that dying man saw a preview of the kingdom of heaven that he would soon enter into. This is the love that Christ offers us every day, hour and minute of our lives. It is this love that is offered to us on the cross, and it is a love that we are powerless to achieve on our own. May we recognize the weakness of our own power, our own Spirit, so that the love of Christ can reign supreme in our lives, our families, and our homes.

       Blessed are we the poor in Spirit, may we bring about the kingdom of heaven. +

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