Gospel reflection
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time: 29 January

The Poverty of Jesus is the Pattern of Holiness

 Jesus of Nazareth’s poverty of spirit is our blessing  ING-004
27 January 2023

The Gospel of Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” is another transfiguration of Jesus as God’s eternal Word to the world; Jesus’ preaching is the manifestation of God’s Holy Voice fleshed out for us in its singular Jewishness. All interpretations of the beatitudes that perceive its landscape of spiritual poverty are rooted in Israel’s covenant with YWHY.  Jesus is the culminating prophecy fulfilled in the midst of the pilgrimage of his chosen poor and dependent peoples.

Albert Gelin’s The Poor of Yahweh (1964) highlights this recognition of Jesus as fulfillment of Jewish obedient love for God’s promises.  Poverty of spirit, a covenant of complete dependence, is the climate that rains down for us in the Beatitudes from Jesus, another Moses for our hearing. Jesus is the incarnation of YHWH’s promise to become poor for love of the poor and “lost” from divine purity with love for a lost humanity.   

Barnabas Ahern’s introduction guides our reception of Gelin’s text as an exposition “of the ‘anawim, ‘the poor and needy,’ who rise out of the pages of the Old Testament as the true people of God. The pattern of their holiness forms the blueprint for the Scriptural portrayal of the great saints of Israel: Moses, Samuel, Jeremiah, Anna, and Judith. The voice of the ‘anawim is resonant in the prayerful pleading of the songs of the Psalter. Their spirit fills the souls of the holy ones in the New Testament: Joseph and Mary, Zachary, and Elizabeth.”

Ahearn asserts that the Matthean form of the Beatitudes “codifies the ‘anawim model of holiness as the ideal of Christian character.” […] “God has never blessed physical misery. Through the prophets and apostles, through the messianic mercy of God’s own Son, God worked always to save us from the blight of hunger, nakedness, and disease.” […]

God recognizes poverty of spirit as blessing and necessity. “Only when we hold our hearts open to God and our hands widespread to our neighbor are we truly poor in spirit. Only when our eyes turn to the Lord and are alert to the cry of the needy, is the Church of Christ today, as it was in the beginning, the Church of the ‘anawim (Gelin, pp. 6-8).”

The Word alive for us in Jesus is the perfect “blueprint of holiness”.  In contrast to his perfect poverty of spirit, his eyes solely on God with his holy mind, heart, and strength, we are, without His blessing, Jesus, only blurred facsimiles. Jesus is the blessing whose poverty of spirit is a sign of full humanity in Him.

Heeding Jesus is our beatitude. Only in bowing obediently to Jesus’ words can the ears of our hearts receive it. Jesus is the blessing of the Spirit upon us that we cannot bestow on ourselves. In God’s covenant to Israel we are all chosen “in Christ Jesus who became for us wisdom of God, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. (1 Corinthians, 30).”  

Let us fully hear what the Holy Spirit, Father of the Poor, is always saying to the one, holy, and universal church of God’s ‘anawim!

By Jonathan Montaldo