Blessed are the poor in spirit,
Joyful are those who have the spirit of the poor
For theirs is the Reign of God,
For the Kingdom of God belongs to them.
Unlike all the other beatitudes but the last, the second clause is in the present tense. They won’t have the kingdom in the future. It’s there’s now.
That seems so contrary to the facts of life.
The kingdom belongs to the powerful, the mighty, the violent, the rich. How could the kingdom ever belong to the poor in spirit – or, even as Luke puts it, to the very poor? How could it be a blessing to be poor in spirit? How could one who is poor in spirit be joyful?
But that’s what Jesus says.
What could he ever mean?
I don’t think he believes that the destitute are happy; I think he wants to welcome them into his reign, to sit at the banquet table with him.
I think he wants us to be poor, or, at the very least, austere in our living.
I think he wants us to accompany the poor, not just helping them, but being with them in their times of sorrow and pain – and joys.
I think he wants us to join the poor in their struggles for justice so that we can move toward a world in which the presence of the kingdom of justice and love and peace is more apparent, especially for those at the margins.
I think he wants us to sit down at table with the poor – at the tables in their homes and ours, and above all at the banquet table of the Eucharist, where there are no divisions, but where we are all one in Christ, sharing afflictions and consolations, joys and sorrows, disappointments and hope, where the final word is not death but life and love and resurrection.
Maybe then we can experience the joy of the poor and of the poor in spirit, where the Kingdom of God is present.