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Last night I was talking to a young person about my challenge of preaching on the beatitudes. I told her of my plan to focus on the first- “Happy are the Poor in Spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

She looked at me and said that she has been to countries where the people are poor. She went on to observe that while Canadians are not poor they are definitely very poor in spirit. She did not mean this a compliment!

She had missed the point of the teaching, and I know she is not the only one.

So what does Jesus mean when he tells us to “be Poor in Spirit?”

I am not sure I can adequately capture it but I want to share with you the story of a man who lives a life of one who is poor in spirit. That man is Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche and a man of peace. Here is a quote from his book, Our Journey Home. See how he captures of the dissatisfaction in the lives of those chasing the dream of the world- like young Lindsay Lohan. The quote speaks to what it might mean to be Poor in Spirit.

“To love someone is to reveal to them that they are beautiful”

“What meaning can be found in life in the modern world? So many people today are searching, so many seem lost and no longer have any kind of ethical reference points; so many are dissatisfied with a purely materialistic life, with ephemeral pleasures or with a quest for power and success.(…)Openness does not imply weakness, nor a tolerance which ignores truth and justice. Being open does not mean adhering to others’ ideologies. It means being truly sympathetic and welcoming to people, listening to them, and in particular, to people who are weak or poor or oppressed, so as to live in communion with them.” Jean Vanier, Our Journey Home, p 145

Here is a video of Vanier telling the story of L’Arche. It is almost an hour long and worth every minute of your time. If you do not have an hour spend a few minutes listening to this man who has found the kingdom of heaven here on earth and that kingdom is made up of people who are different from those we would consider privileged and achievers.

The truth of the matter is that young Lindsay could find true peace and friends at L’Arche by becoming poor in spirit. Unfortunately, she seems trapped chasing what the world calls success.

‘The Long Road to Freedom’ – Lecture by Jean Vanier from Blackfriars Hall on Vimeo.

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