Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God."
~Matthew 5:30

"I have come that they may have life, and more abundantly." ~John 10:10

Jesus seems to speak in contradictions. He wants us to be empty and poor? Then he wants us to have fullness, "and more abundantly." Is he a madman?

There is no contradiction. Jesus does not teach economics. He does not speak of external wealth and poverty, but of those inward qualities of the heart that transform the world by transforming consciousness.

In Luke 17:21, Jesus teaches that the Kingdom will not be found out there in a political utopia, nor in a mythical realm above: "But the kingdom of God is within you." Here in Matthew 5:30, he points the way to that Kingdom, through becoming "poor in spirit."

The Greek word for "spirit" is "pneuma," which means "breath." To be poor in spirit means quieting and surrendering the breath. Jesus teaches deep meditation, where breath become slow, fine, clear, and subtle, until the individual breath returns to the universal breath of the Creator. Humbled and impoverished within, I can be grateful for the gift of this very breath. Then I transcend the restless mind of anger and desire, entering the poverty of boundless silence, the wealth of emptiness.

Why not become hollow, following the path of Jesus' own "kinosis," or "self-emptying" (Philippians 2)? The Buddha called it "sunyata." Yet this is not the hollow of lack, but the vacuum from which creation arises. The source of the world is the hollow of our own awareness, prior to thought. Yet at the same time, it is the fullness of sat-chit-ananda, the Kingdom of God.

Through a breath of emptiness, I inherit the greatest wealth, pressed out and overflowing. Wealth is not having many things, but feeling infinite gratitude for the gift of Presence. Jesus does not teach theology or politics, but the art of living in this moment, this body, this breath.

The right attempted to teach the "gospel of prosperity." The left attempted to teach "the social gospel." But Jesus' words point neither left nor right: they point within. Justice is not imposed, but awakened. The world is transformed from inside out.

It is time to listen to Meister Eckhart, John of the Cross, Theresa of Avila, Mechtilde of Magdeberg, Teilhard de Chardin. Time to apply the salve of the mystics to the wound of Western civilization.

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