Today’s gospel text from Luke is known as the Sermon on the Plain. It is very much like Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. Both begin by referring to the poor, for the kingdom of God is theirs. This leads me to reflect on what it means to be poor. My first thoughts are about people who are unable to afford the necessities of life. But my mind immediately considers other ways in which people are poor.

We say a person is in poor health when he/she suffers from a chronic and debilitating disease. We might use the phrase “that poor soul” when we refer to a person who suffers from a tragic event in life. We can say similar things about people who suffer emotional and mental illness. Common themes present in all these examples of being poor are the concepts of suffering and the absence of something. Both lead a person to a sense of vulnerability.

Vulnerability is at the very heart of what we call poverty of spirit. And being poor in spirit allows us to hear God’s voice and see God’s actions in our lives. Without such poverty we tend to think we are able to control our own lives and everything revolves around us. With true poverty of spirit we are able to enter into the fullness of God’s love for us. As with any relationship, when we allow ourselves to love and be loved, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.

Because God’s love is unconditional and absolute, we need never worry about our vulnerability.  It is in realizing our poverty, weakness, and vulnerability that we can really call out to God in hope and in trust, thus enjoying the fullness of God’s kingdom, His love and His life.

 —David McNulty is the Provincial Assistant for Advancement, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits