Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

 

our little chapel

It’s the start of the traditional novena masses leading to the celebration of the birth of the Son of God. I decided to structure my reflections on the Beatitudes, the laws of love, in addition to the theme of the mass. There are eight of them so I figured I even have one day off.

 

Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. This is the first beatitude and one that I always had trouble understanding because of the phrase poor in spirit.

When I was in high school I once asked my teacher in my Christian Living subject why God is giving the kingdom of heaven to those people who lost their spirit, to the unhappy people. I got a C, for losing the translation. Apparently, someone is not poor because he/she lost something or lack something.

A person is poor because he/she is in need. For example, a person is poor in materials things if he needs to have those material things. If he doesn’t need those things then he cannot be poor material-wise. So, a person who is poor in spirit is the person who is in need of the Spirit, of God and the life He offers. The contrapositive form of this statement is equally true: He who does not need God cannot be poor in spirit. Then who can be welcomed in the kingdom of heaven? He who desperately need God, who depends on God, who can’t live without God. To be poor in spirit is the condition we must meet to enter the kingdom of God.

Our need controls us, calls the shot for us. Who and what would you rather have to call the shot for you?

Prayer

Father, in the midst of all the things I possess, help me to be poor in spirit by keeping my life open to You, by putting my trust totally in You, and by holding you always as the most precious element in my life.

Simplifying one’s life

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hibiscus flowerTo simplify means to make less complex or complicated. Hence to simplify one’s life is to make it less complicated and perhaps easier to live. How do we do this?  Let’s take a lesson from mathematics. In mathematics to simplify an algebraic expression is to perform the indicated operation. For example, in 9(2x+1)/3 – x, the indicated operations are division, multiplication, addition, and subtraction. The simplifying process is only complete when the expression is in its most basic form.  I believe that in math and in life, the simplifying process is done by going through the same operation of subtraction, addition, division and multiplication.

To simplify one’s life does not only involve subtraction or removing unnecessary baggage, disordered attachments, and excesses. This is only part of the process. To simplify one’s life also involve addition – increasing our knowledge about ourselves, opening our hearts and minds to life-giving relationships, increasing the depth of our intimacy with God, etc.

To simplify one’s life also involves division and multiplication. We should learn to celebrate life. Our joys, our hopes, our faith have to multiply so that they will touch the lives of as many people as possible.  However this can only happen if we are willing to share ourselves, continually allow ourselves to be broken for others like Jesus does in the Eucharist.

Yes, the simplifying process is an on-going process. It does not only happen during the lenten season of the Church or of our lives but also during Advent, Christmas, Easter, and even in Ordinary time.

Simple life


Last month, our librarian invited some of us to the Book Sale at SM Megamall. In the car, I casually mentioned that it was my first time to visit Megamall again since I came back from my study. One staff from our Art Section asked me “So to which SM’s do you go?” I said “I always go to SM City North.” She said “Dun lang?” (Just there?). Amused by the incredulity in her voice I readily supplied “Oh, I also go to the other side, in Trinoma”, feeling a little proud of myself [Trinoma is just opposite SM North and is considered to be more upscale]. “Ay ganun, napakasimple naman ng buhay mo” (Is that so? Your life’s too simple). I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know what to make of the sweeping assessment of my life. I was tempted to put her on the defensive, but I catch myself. I actually managed to convince myself the comment was a cliché so I sealed my lips. Of course I was also avoiding the follow up question “So, how often do you go to SM North?” and another possible follow up “So, where and how do you spend your weekend?”

In mathematics to simplify an algebraic expression is to express it in its most basic form. This is done by performing all the operations shown in the expression that has made it look complicated. The simplified form is still equivalent to the original expression. That is, the value of the original expression and its simplified form are equal. For example, the simplified form of the expression {5[2(2x^2)+3x] – 20x^2}/15 is the expression x.

The simplified form of an expression is easier to interpret. It also frees the mathematician to transform it into other expressions should there be other quantities and relationships that need to be represented. I think this is true not only in math but also in life. We hear the call of vocation only later in life when our experiences and choices have already made us a little more “complicated”. Vocation is God’s invitation for us to be simplified. Our yes to the call is our yes to the simplifying process. In our simplified form, God will have a free-hand of transforming us back to His original plan for us without having to deal with our protestations. To live out our vocation therefore is not just live out an aspect of our life. To live it is to live our life. Our vocation is our life.

Paul received his invitation to the simplifying process in Damascus. This encounter made him re-read his life. It transformed him to what he was called to be when he was still in his mother’s womb. He wrote in Galatians 1: 13-16

You have heard, I know, the story of my former way of life in Judaism. You know that I went to extremes … But the time came when he who had set me apart before I was born and called me by his favour chose to reveal his Son to me , that I might spread to the Gentiles the good tidings concerning him.

After the Damascus experience there was no stopping this apostle to the gentiles. It was now Jesus or nothing for the man. To live one’s vocation therefore is to live in simplified form. This will allow Jesus a freehand to fashion us in Him so that we can participate in God’s plan of redemption like St. Paul did.

If only the simplifying process is as easy as going to just the nearest SM branch.

(SM is a chain of shopping malls in Philippines.)