Ever since Francis was elected I’ve been on a poverty binge, mentioning poverty in a whole bunch of posts. It has given me a structure for some thoughts I’ve had on the spiritual life in general. I want to write more about this. I have heard that Mother Teresa was wont to say that you weren’t really helping the poor, at least not in a way that helped you, until what you did for them actually started to hurt. In other words, until we actually become poor ourselves, we aren’t helping the poor in a meaningful way. I don’t think that means we have to become materially poor, but it is something to think about. It is all very complex as well as simple at the same time. I think we need to help the poor in such a way that allows us to recognize the wealth of material poverty. Material poverty is wealthy, in a way, because it reflects our spiritual poverty before God and opens us to his life, but also because it doesn’t present the temptations that material wealth does. On the other hand, it does present its own temptations. If one is poor and struggling for food and shelter one might resort to crime to make a living, despising their lot. So yes, we must work against poverty and to alleviate suffering, but we must do so in a way that recognizes its benefits as well as the problems it presents. And wealth? We must work against wealth as well in order to avoid its temptations to worldliness while embracing its benefits, which consist, first and foremost, in the ability to help others, to bless others as we have been blessed.
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