Of the Great Reward Wherewith the Lord Rewards the Poor of Spirit

by admin on May 22, 2011

THAT young man in the Gospel who desired perfection and was not content with keeping the commandments, was sad and went off when the Lord told him that, if he desired to be perfect, he must sell all that he had and give to the poor. He had many possessions, and was attached to his property, and had no heart nor pluck to leave it. There was wanting in him the capital necessary for build­ing the tower of evangelical perfection (Luke xiv. 28). That the like may not happen to us, and that we may have courage and strength to renounce all things of the world and break with it altogether, and be very glad to have done so, Christ our Redeemer puts before us the great reward we shall gain thereby. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. v. 3). See if it be a good investment to give all things of earth for the kingdom of heaven; and whether he would be a wise trader, who should divest himself of all things to gain this treasure. St. Bernard observes that in this beatitude our Lord speaks, not in the future, as in the others, but in the present: Theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom is already yours although they have not yet made it over to you, because you have bought it at the price of the things you have given up. It is as though you had given a hundred guineas for a piece of gold plate or for a precious stone, which the seller still keeps in his house. That piece of plate is yours, though they have not yet handed it over to you—yours because you have laid down the price in. money for it. Thus the kingdom of heaven belongs to the man who is poor in spirit. He has bought it and given all he had for it. The kingdom of heaven is like to a merchant seeking good pearls: having found one precious pearl, he goeth and selleth all he hath and buyeth it (Matt. xiii. 45-46). So you have made the kingdom of heaven your own, since you have given all you had for it.

The promises of Christ do not stop there. He promises more than that to the poor in spirit. But can there be any­thing more than the kingdom of heaven? Yes, because there are promotions there in heaven, as there are here on earth for good soldiers; and He promises to the poor in. spirit a promotion and pre-eminence high above the rest. Upon the departure of that young man who would not aban­don all he had, Christ our Redeemer observed how diffi­cult it was for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven, whereupon St. Peter stood out from the number of the rest and said: Lord, we have left all things, and followed thee: what then shall we have? He answered: Amen, I say to you that ye who have followed me, in the regeneration when-the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His majesty, ye too shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt. xix. 27-28). The saints declare that this dignity and pre-eminence is to be understood as belonging to all those who have imitated the apostles in the state of poverty, confirmed by vow, such as religious who die in the grace of God. They say that they will all hold this pre­eminence and dignity; that at the day of judgment they will not stand before the divine tribunal so much to be judged as to be assessors in judgment with Christ, and as such to approve and confirm the sentence of our Savior. So say expressly St. Augustine, Bede, St. Gregory, and it is the common opinion of the doctors. They apply this text of Isaias: The Lord will come in judgment with the ancients and princes of his people (iii. 14); and what Solomon says in Proverbs, speaking of the Spouse of the Church: Her husband is noble in the gates, when he shall sit with the senators of the land (xxxi. 23). Those they say are the princes that are to come to judge along with Christ; and the ancients and senators, who are to be seated with the Spouse of the Church, that is, Christ, at the last day of judgment. And though some wish to assign this dignity to all the canonized saints, yet the common opinion, which St. Thomas follows, is that they only will hold this dignity who have professed the state of poverty, even though they are not canonized. And theologians and saints allege many reasons and very good arguments from the fitness of things why this pre-eminence should be assigned to them who have made profession of voluntary poverty rather than to the rest of the blessed. St. Gregory very aptly cries out here with the prophet: Exceeding honor, O Lord, thou hast done to thy friends. 0 Lord, their rule has been extraordinarily strengthened (Psalm cxxxviii. 17). Blessed and praised be Thou, O Lord, Who hast thus honored Thy friends, par­ticularly those who have made themselves poor for Thy love, since, not content with giving them the kingdom of heaven, Thou hast made them such great and eminent princes therein as that they shall be universal judges of the Whole earth along with Thee.

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