Poverty and Riches

I greeted a dear friend last night as we sat down for dinner, and her first question was, “Did you buy a new scarf, or have you broken with tradition?”

She recalled how I have so often come to our dinners with a new purchase, usually a scarf. This helped us recall how we were once, a few years ago, two strangers having breakfast in the morning room of our hotel in Rome. She remembered the scarf I was wearing that day.

Her question was very timely. I have been thinking about poverty and excess. I happened to read the Beatitudes that morning:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 5:3

This left me pondering. What was this new heavenly order that Jesus spoke about? How could his listeners take it in, given their often mean existence at the bottom of the social order?

What matters, I decided, is whether, and how, I take it in.

As we continued our meal, I shared with my friend a design for a 5-day retreat in Assisi, around the lives of Francis and Clare, and the provocative questions they raise for all of us. For example, voluntary poverty.

I have never been materially poor. I have never suffered for want of anything in that arena. And, I currently have too many scarves. And hats, coats and sweaters. And, pairs of gloves. Not to mention choices of food, and whether I cook in or eat out. Then there’s healthcare, heat, transportation. It goes on.

These are the facts. They have started to raise questions for me. Like, what is enough, in my life? What is excessive? Why do I choose to have more than enough clothing?

Is there are connection between being materially poor and spiritually poor?

Do material riches block spiritual riches?

Yes, if we agree that it’s harder for the rich to get into heaven than for a camel to pass through a needle’s eye. Or, if we ascribe to Matthew 6.21:

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I have certainly have held onto other, non-material things that once left me spiritually impoverished until I surrendered them

  • A false identity
  • Addiction
  • Resentments
  • Deception

At some point I realized they were damaging, deadening, life-threatening.

I don’t find that same urgency with scarves. I am becoming more curious about that.

“The heart must be empty of all other things, because God will possess the heart alone.”

Brother Lawrence

About Soul Intention

"Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with...desire. What we do with our longings, both in terms of handling the pain and the hope they bring us, that is our spirituality." from The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser. Paraphrasing what Gerald May has said, in his book Will and Spirit, spirituality is our experience and interpretation of our relationship with the Sacred. The intent of this blog is to explore for myself, and to invite others to explore with me, just what is it we do with our desire? What is our spirituality? Mine has been shaped by many things...in my formative years, by the Roman Catholic church. In the last decade, by the 12 steps. Most recently, by the Episcopal Church. And, always, always, by the sense that Nature helped to reveal the Great Mystery, of which we are all a part. So, my spirituality includes concrete practices, like the Steps, as well as probing more philosophical matters. I was certified, in January 2011, as a Spiritual Director by the Haden Institute. During those 21 months of study, which included a broad range of topics from Celtic Spirituality, to the Christian Mystics, to Jungian Depth psychology, I was given the space and time to ponder my own spiritual journey, hear about others' paths, and benefit from participation in an intentional community. My hope is that this blog can engender a similar conversation. Peace, Paul
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1 Response to Poverty and Riches

  1. i have too many scarves too………????????????????????

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