The Apostle Paul reminded his followers that it is the Holy Spirit speaking when they call God “ Abba” or Father. He continued, “the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Ro. 8:15, 26-27). Jesus comforted his delegation to preach this message, “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Mt. 10:19-20).
Isaiah the prophet of the Lord was sent to encourage the people of Judah, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry out to her that her warfare is ended, that he iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins” (Isa. 40:1-2). Mourning precedes comforting; hence, Isaiah had to pass on this message, “Stop bringing, meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me. New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations – I cannot bear your evil assemblies. Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates. They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood; wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right! Seek justice and encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow” (Isa. 1:13-17).
Spiritual poverty is not a religious exercise of prayer, of worship and withdrawal from the world but the aptitude to manage and survive in the world. Jesus wanted his followers to be as clever as serpents and as harmless as doves (Mt. 10:16). The “makarioi” are not grasshoppers in a world of giants like the ten spies in Moses’ days (Num. 13:33). Rather they are the giants in a world of grasshoppers with an ultimate reason for being in this world. They know that the One that is within them is greater than the one that is in the world because He helps them overcome the world. It is when the saints stand out as heroes then the world listens (I Jn. 4:4-6). The saints have to redefine what it means to be poor in spirit. They do not have to become worldly to enjoy the worldly blessings for they too are God’s gift (Ps. 24:1). His gift is available to the good and the bad (Mt. 5:45). It is tragic that the good have left it to the bad to enjoy. The world is not kind to the saints because the saints are no longer competitive. They have forgotten that Jesus counseled them to make friends with mammon (Lk. 16:9). Render honest service (Mt. 22:21). Be a prudent investor (Mt. 25:14-30). Jesus too depended on people of means like Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus, Mark’s home and the wealthy women (Mt. 27:55-56). Jesus enjoyed a little comfort and some sweet perfume (Jn. 12:3). It was not and is not what a person has but what he is and does that make him a “makarios.” It has to do with attitude and aptitude.
The Gospel according to Luke 6:17-26, records a shorter version of the Sermon on the Mount. Verse 21 and 25 ends as follows: “Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh,” and “Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.” Jesus statements speak to me because I do laugh rather than mourn and weep over my blunderings. We mourn over losing a loved one or a friend that no longer needs our sympathy, but not over the sins we commit that keep us from God and each other.
The story of Job in the Bible is about a man who had fallen on hard times. He lost his children, his material possessions and his wife was ready to leave him. Sorrow did not destroy the man, but his comforters or mourners almost did. His four comforters, instead of sharing his sorrow, they added to it by looking for reasons why he was being punished. Forty some years ago, my wife suffered severe nerve pain for four and one half years. Surgery would have disabled her for life. Time was the only cure. She lay in a bed in Cooperstown and had three visitors. One was a clergy friend and he carelessly remarked, “I knew some one with that condition and he put a gun to his head.” A younger minister with a large Bible under his arm stopped at her bed and asked, “What sin have you committed to suffer that much?” A Catholic sister sat down beside my wife, took her hand and said gently, “ My dear, the Lord must love you very much to let you endure this pain.” She most definitely was a dispenser of grace.
The Blessed, or the “Makarioi” are the dispensers of grace, and they teach us how to live for God in the world. The B Attitudes, if they had began with “filled with the spirit” or being “rich in spirit,” I, very likely, would not have undertaken this study to see where it would lead me. I am intrigued by what is so important in my attitude to be “poor in spirit?” I have heard and preached many sermons on the Holy Spirit taking up residence in the human heart; but I have never thought of a soul that was blessed being poor in the spirit. Join me in my little journey and see where it leads. How some people can dispense grace in a world like ours?