Lesson Seven — Spiritual Poverty and Humility

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The attitude of spiritual poverty is not meant just for those in religious life. Scripture tells us, "Do not love the world, or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world" (1 Jn 2:15-16).

Jesus Himself did not condemn the possession of material things. He Himself had rich friends. He paid taxes. Money itself is not the root of all evil. It is "love of money that is the root of all evil" (1 Tim 6: 10). We must not let material things be our god. At the same time, poverty in itself has no intrinsic merit or virtue. Rather, it is good insofar as it can remove some of the roadblocks that impede our progress on the spiritual path. Poverty helps keep us from becoming distracted by things of this world that don't really matter.

Many people pursue money and material goods because they believe it will bring them a new identity, satisfaction, and security. In times of struggle, many find their solace and consolation in worldly things. Many struggle with low self-esteem and believe a new car, hairdo, a facelift, or a wardrobe change will somehow make them different and lift them from their despair.
Some people work, struggle, and sacrifice to make money and become a "success," for they believe it will give them security. They take their eyes off God to achieve their goals. "I'll get to God later," they say, or "I'll help the poor after I win the lottery." They know that they should help now, but they are unwilling to part with some of their blessings. Their life is like the man with one foot in the boat and the other on the dock. He wants both and leads an unsteady existence. Or think of a workaholic who toils many extra hours trying to accumulate wealth because he convinces himself that "when I get enough money, I'll enjoy life and really work for the Lord!" However, for most, such a "picture-perfect" scenario never comes to fulfillment. One may get laid off from work, the long hours can take a toll on the marriage and family, or a loss of health can ruins the scenario. Satisfaction never occurs, and the soul becomes angry and despondent.

Humility is the virtue of recognizing our dependence on God. It is also the virtue most pleasing to God. It is paramount to spiritual growth. On the Feast of The Immaculate Conception, St. Faustina saw the Blessed Mother, who said to her, "'I desire, My dearly beloved daughter, that you practice the three virtues that are dearest to me — and most pleasing to God. The first is humility, humility, and once again humility; the second virtue, purity; the third virtue, love of God. As My daughter, you must especially radiate with these virtues.' When the conversation ended, She pressed me to her Heart and disappeared" (Diary of St. Faustina, 1415).

Humility can bear positive fruit from the trials and tribulations that affect us as we journey down the winding and tortuous road of life. Such a trial or crisis might include the death of a loved one, alcoholism, depression, financial ruin, or any one of life's disasters that we may face. Prior to the crisis, one thinks, "Life is great!" At this point, there is little need for God. When troubles begin, though, the soul begins to question, "Is this what life is about?"

Pride is the opposite of humility. In spite of material wealth, it is the proud person who is spiritually bankrupt. Our Lord told St. Faustina, "The torrents of grace inundate humble souls. The proud remain always in poverty and misery, because my grace turns away from them to humble souls" (Diary, 1602).

The humble person is in the world but not part of it. He has detachment from worldly things and recognizes that the lasting pearl is the kingdom of God. Our Lord spoke about this to St. Faustina and said, "Today, penetrate into the spirit of My poverty and arrange everything in such a way that the most destitute will have no reason to envy you. I find pleasure, not in large buildings and magnificent structures, but in a pure and humble heart" (Diary, 532).

Questions for Discussion:
Spiritual poverty and humility are important virtues as we try to grow spiritually; they are very difficult to achieve as we live in a consumer-driven and materialistic society. Money and materialistic success should not be our driving force and the reason we get up in the morning. It is only when we have complete abandonment to God that we find true happiness.

1. What did St. Faustina say about spiritual poverty?
2. In what way does having an attitude of spiritual poverty lead us to greater freedom? How does one resist the "seductions of power and pleasure" and attachment to things so prevalent in society?
3. As Catholics and Christians, what makes us rich?
4. Can we please God without humility? (see Diary, 270).

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