“Our faithfulness will depend on our willingness to go where there is brokenness, loneliness, and human need. If the church has a future it is a future with the poor in whatever form.”
— Henri Nouwen
I totally get what the wonderful priest and spiritual writer Henri Nouwen was saying in the quote above. Being poor is typically thought of in material and financial terms, but that’s all relative. I’ve been to places in the world where people are totally and completely destitute–I’ve seen people in Siberia and Mexico and other places who had no monetary income whatsoever. Every day was a struggle for survival. In their minds and perceptions of me, I might as well have been Donald Trump–they saw me as being that wealthy. They thought of all Americans as being that wealthy.
I once drew a crowd in a dirt-poor area outside of the city of Tomsk, Siberia–a crowd of teens and adults too–who were awed by my new Nike shoes. In that crowd, I felt like Donald Trump.
I’ve seen the poorest of the poor walk around with big smiles on their faces all day, in this country and elsewhere, and I’ve seen the richest of the rich in my country make themselves miserably unhappy, living in fear of their own good fortune. Many people fear every minute of their own lives, it seems, that their portfolios might take a dive.
Wherever there is brokenness, loneliness, human need, someone is suffering regardless of his or her financial status. Someone is stuck in poverty of the soul. We as the church need to go to, say, the Haitis–or, say, the Juarezes, where I just went with a team of volunteers from my home church to be in relationship with the poor in the slums there.
But we as the church need to go and be with anyone in need–the poor in “whatever form,” as Nouwen put it.
The operative word here is . . . . anyone . . . anyone in need.
Because we’re all poor in spirit whether we’re smiling through our own poverties or not.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart,
for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
——Gospel of St. Matthew 5:3-10