Renounce...almost everything? A Lenten Devotion for March 8, 2017

Among historical figures, perhaps only Mother Theresa rivals St. Francis of Assisi in the act of “Renouncing”. Born to a well-to-do family, St. Francis was a successful soldier before seeing God in the face of a roadside beggar. Rather than being moved with simple compassion for the beggar, he sought and found actual joy in begging.

Check this out this description of Francis’ love of being poor written by biographer Carlos Carretto called The Mystery of Poverty.

The crucifix of St. Damien had revealed to me something very important, something I tried not to forget. In fact it had become the standard and guide of my life.

Poverty did not consist in helping the poor, it consisted in being poor.

Helping the poor was basic. It was basic to charity, and an expression of charity. But being poor was something else.

Jesus had been poor.

I, Francis, wished to be poor.

What it meant to be poor I began to see very clearly. All I had to do was to look at the poor or look at Jesus.

Being poor meant having nothing, or almost nothing, it meant not possessing wealth, not possessing things, not possessing money, not possessing security, just like the poor, just like Jesus. And even this was not everything. Even this was but the external, visible sign of poverty.

True poverty went to the bottom of things, and touched the spirit. For Jesus had said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

How these words captivated me! How I sought to grasp their meaning!

Blessed are the poor in spirit!

That meant that not all the poor were equal. That meant that there were those who were poor in spirit, and there were those who were just poor.

And when I thought of the poor that I had met in life, especially in recent years, it was clear that there were poor who were only poor—very sad, often angry, and certainly not blessed.

And then again, I recalled very well, there were poor people who were quite otherwise, poor people who wore their poverty beautifully.

Poor people who had the conviction that they were being guided by God, supported by his Presence.

Poor people who were able to love, in spite of their sudden vexations—poor people who were patient in trial, rich in hope, strong in adversity.

Poor people who were blessed because they could bear witness, every day, that God was present in their lives, and that he provided for them as he did the sparrows of the sky, which possess no granaries.

Yes, this captivated me.

To bear witness, to testify, to myself, and to other human beings, that God alone sufficed for me, and that I did not have to be concerned about anything, anything at all—”think of the flowers of the field; they never have to spin or weave; yet not even Solomon in all his regalia was like one of these (Luke 12:27).

Questions for Reflection

  1. What would it mean in today’s society to renounce all wealth as a way of following Jesus?
  2. In what ways is greed the national/societal sin of our day?
  3. What would it mean for you to treat money as a spiritual matter?


Created with images by LisaRedfern - "saint francis of assisi saint statue" • PublicDomainPictures - "hobo vagrant homeless" • terimakasih0 - "beggar woman help" • Leroy_Skalstad - "homeless man poverty" • 21150 - "homeless comment on sitting" • mcaretaker - "P1010495" • - "Begging"

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