Mike’s Meditations: Are You Poor?

by Mike Van Vranken

In Luke’s gospel story, Jesus explains his ministry. He says: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19).

His entire ministry is for the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed – and the remainder of Luke’s gospel will bear that out. Now, at the beginning of the year, might be a good time to prayerfully ask ourselves just what this means to us, today, in 2019.

Bring Glad Tidings to the Poor. Who are the poor Jesus is talking about? Certainly Jesus came for those who are financially poor. And I think he commissions each of us to be Christ to everyone who needs financial help. But his message here is so much more. In fact, I believe that our ability to be Jesus to the monetarily poor requires our wisdom about this scripture.

I suggest you go to your favorite prayer place, some location that is quiet and alone, take some serious deep breaths, and begin by listening to the quiet. After a minute or so, recognize God’s presence with you. Softly and intimately tell the Holy Trinity that you are aware of the presence, the love and the goodness flows over and through you. If you feel like it, make a gesture; maybe bow to the presence of God; or you might make the sign of the cross. Spend a moment giving praise, glory and thanksgiving for this love relationship you have with the Creator of the Universe who loves you more than you can imagine.

In the quiet of this experience, ask God: “How do you see me right now?” And, in particular: “God, where in my life am I poor?” Then, in your stillness and oneness with God, be quiet and listen. And, by listen, I mean listen with your entire being. Hear His faint, small voice with your mind, with your mental images, and mostly, with your open heart.

When we meet God in contemplative prayer like this, we may hear Him reply that we are poor in our desire and willingness to help the needy. He may gently tell us that we are impoverished in our ability to forgive those who have wounded us. He could say we are destitute in our loving kindness to welcome the immigrant or refugee. He may lovingly respond that we are poverty-stricken in our care for the elderly. We might hear Him explain how our reservoir of compassion for the emotionally injured is bankrupt. As you might see, there are countless ways the Holy Trinity might point out where we are poor. Now, back to our conversation in prayer with God.

As you sit with God in the quiet, notice how gentle, loving and compassionate He is with you and for you. There is no judgment here. Just a loving and holy answer to your question about where in your life you are poor. In like manner, lovingly and gently receive all He has to say. Continue to sit in the quiet and allow Him to caress and embrace you. Remember, He loves you “with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3).

Savor the moment and do not end this prayer time too quickly. Remember Jesus came to bring glad tidings to the poor. Give him the time, space and openness to do what he came to do. He wants to relieve you of your poverty and replace it with his grace. The grace to help the needy; the grace to forgive, welcome, care for, have compassion for, and especially to love all those he puts in our paths. As he told St. Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9). In other words, no matter how poor we are, Jesus came so we can receive more than enough grace to relieve our poverty, and be wealthy in our love and mercy for others.

I know of no mention of New Year’s resolutions in the Bible, but I am very aware of the message of conversion and transformation. As we begin 2019, let’s make time every day this month to visit with the God of the universe, and ask Him for relief of our poverty by allowing Him to lavish us with the grace to be transformed into His true “image” and “likeness” (Genesis 1:26-28). •

 

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