Happy Are You Poor

AngelusI am making a return to this modern tool – this blog – on the day after the Epiphany of the Lord. Aren’t we all looking for epiphanies in our life? … those sudden, intuitive perceptions of the meaning of things; a spiritual flash? Wouldn’t we all enjoy a greater sensitivity and receptivity to the mind and heart of God?

I would like to spend the next few weeks with you, as we prepare our hearts for Lent (Feb. 6), looking at the obstacles and entryways to this sensitivity and receptivity.  As Mary’s Anawim, you will love the main source we will be drawing from during this preparation: Happy Are You Poor: The Simple Life and Spiritual Freedom,” by Fr. Thomas Dubay.

Are you ready? Fr. Dubay refers to it as “Radical Readiness.” Just this morning at Mass we heard that Jesus went about preaching and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt. 4:17). He did not say, “whenever you feel ready and are a bit less busy, you might want to think about …” No, whenever we put it off, it rarely gets done.

As Fr. Dubay, in relating to radical readiness, writes: “One is ready for the kingdom when he is so intellectually and morally developed by a love for truth and goodness that when he hears the revealed word he can react positively to it … Sensitivity to truth and goodness is a major reason why in a parish church on Sunday morning there are so many widely diverse reactions even to a good homily. The saint may fall into ecstacy upon hearing the simple mention of God’s goodness, while the sinner may remain as cold as a stone before the eloquence of a Lacordaire (p. 55-56, HAYP). 

No doubt, as we take an honest look at ourselves, the challenge of evangelical (Gospel) poverty will sting a bit.  Can we set aside our foolish pride and be teachable in the face of such challenge? Fr. Dubay writes about this difficulty: “In matters that touch on one’s style of life, most people have a heavy emotional and volitional investment. They find it difficult, indeed almost impossible, to investigate the evidence cooly and calmly. One of the easiest ways to elicit a strong response from an individual in conversation or from an audience in a lecture is to make a telling point or two that even mildly suggests that they are self-indulgent in their use of money. Prayerful people tend to welcome any admonition that shows them that their way of life does not measure up to the Gospel, but others easily get indignant and sometimes angry” (p. 26, HAYP).

Finally, we also read from St. John’s letter at Mass this morning: “Beloved: We receive from him whatever we ask, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him” (1 John 3:22). As Mary’s Anawim, we follow the lead of the very first disciple, our Blessed Mother, whose fiat brought to us a savior: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38).

Come with me as we explore, with Fr. Thomas Dubay, how a radical self-emptying leads to a fullness of joy, not just a trickle of it: “These things I have said to you, that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).

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3 Responses to Happy Are You Poor

  1. Lili (Elisabeth) Jacobs says:

    My heart jumped when you mentioned Fr. Dubay, Fr. Rick! “Fire Within -St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross. and the Gospel – on Prayer”, is a profound call to us – right now. It is unrelenting, and speaks and calls out clear as the stars on a freeezing cold night! – there is NO haze. Years ago this book was the very first to really to roar at me in the silence. It remains an unbelievable treasure. These two saints, with their particular love and “way” speak so clearly.
    And it IS brutal! And as you say, “radical”, this ‘way’ of self-emptying.
    It is the radical life of the narrow way. It is the Truth.
    I think we really are in an amazing time of intense and growing battles, within us and all around us, as individuals and collectively as His Church. Please Lord, grant that this Narrow Way be a constantly stronger desire, ever growing stronger, than this constant clammering of self-seeking core! Help us to hear, and to be truely disposed to Your Graces. Catch us Lord in your Arms.

  2. Steve Davies says:

    Epiphanies delivered from the Lord are truly humbling and amazing experiences. I was blessed recently with such an epiphany. After my family’s arrival of only 30 minutes early netted us a downstairs seat at the Christmas Eve Mass in 2001, I always show up early to that Mass because I want a good seat. Six years ago, we felt like we were merely watching the events of the Mass on television; we felt detached. That Christmas was my late wife Angie’s last Christmas on earth and I regret not being more a part of the action in the Sanctuary that night, especially because she loved working with children so much.

    This year, I showed up two hours early and as the rehearsal for the children’s Christmas pageant progressed, I read chapter eight in the book Boys to Men, The Transforming Power of Virtue. The description on pages 103 to 105 of love as a decision on the road to holiness rather than a feeling that just happens to us, truly defines what love really is. The example in the book which explains how those who experience love as merely a feeling to fall in and out of, allows some to justify their decision to end their marriage when things get tough. When we experience love in marriage, and our other relationships as what is best for the other person, rather than ourselves, we truly can experience a small part of the love that Christ must have felt for us when he went to Calvary. He thought so much more about us than that example even begins to express, but it does illustrate the point. After Mass, a friend of mine commented that she noticed that I was lost in prayer at the time when I was having this epiphany. It was only by the grace of God that I experienced it.

    As I continue to face a real life situation that challenges everything I believe in, I have found some true peace and joy once I gave it all to Christ. The situation continues and could get worse, but He helps me find peace through the storm. What could have been high on the list of miserable Christmases in my life, turned out to be one of the happiest because of the epiphany that the Lord delivered to me before that Mass. All He wants is for us to give it all to Him and let Him be with us.

    It seems so easy to see as I start to turn toward Him. Everything starts to make sense now, but it did not when I lived more in the darkness of my own devices and pride that I could solve it all. Until I was on my knees (and once actually on my back in the middle of a field for a couple of hours), could I realize how much He could take it all from me and replace the emptiness of loss with the fullness of His presence. Many times in the last year, there has only been one set of footprints in the sand; His, as He carried me. In my weakness, He was strong; He lifted me up. In the face of trials, He proved to me that He is the Way. I always thought I believed that, but now I absolutely KNOW it.

    I pray that He brings more people to the realization of His goodness. I pray that it is through less trial than I have been through, but His Will be done. He does indeed know what is best for all of us.

  3. Greg Wagner says:

    Hope this is an Epiphany for others as well. It is written by Sor Juana Ines De La Cruz – she was a Mexican nun, poet, dramatist and spirtitual writer (1695).
    “Their hearts were Hardened”

    The more grace prompts me
    to move up to the heavenly sphere,
    the more the weight of my wretchedness
    casts me into the depths.

    Virtue and custom
    struggle in the heart,
    and the heart is in agony,
    while they do combat.

    And however strong virtue be,
    I fear it may be vanquished,
    since custom is very great,
    and virtue very green.

    The intellect is clouded
    in dark confusion.
    Who can light the way
    if reason itself is blind?

    I am my executioner.
    And myself’s own prison.
    Who saw that sin and suffering
    are one and the same?

    I am reluctant to do that thing
    I most desire to do;
    and for this reluctance
    suffer the penalty.

    I love God and sense myself in God,
    but my very will makes
    what is comfort, a cross
    and what is haven, a storm.

    Suffer , then, since God commands,
    but let it be such,
    that my sins bring suffering
    not my suffering sin.

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