Advent 2011: Live Anew

“Blessed are the poor in spirit”

Advent begins with both a bang and a whisper. Now that Thanksgiving is out of the way, stores, commercials, and TV channels are roiling with the frenetic energy of Yuletide cheer, while each of us struggles to remember what it is we are actually preparing for.

But the clash between noise and stillness is nothing new. Thinking of the Messiah’s coming, Isaiah begs the Lord to come in thunder and earthquake, while St. Mark reminds us that Jesus comes so quietly that we might miss him unless we keep careful watch.

The first beatitude helps us resolve the apparent conflict: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Our world has its own values and priorities, according to which the poor are usually somewhere between despised and pitied, but never blessed. Jesus opens the door here to a new way of living: the poor in spirit are those who don’t need to create their own meaning, to wrest wealth, power, and happiness from the world by their own brute strength. The poor in spirit place their hope in God, and live in his presence wherever they happen to be, however chaotic or earth-shaking their surroundings may be.

Jesus Christ is the stillness at the heart of the world’s noise. He invites us to become poor in spirit, to be with him now, sharing a foretaste of the kingdom of heaven even on this earth.

But Christ will come again, with a splendor and a majesty that will shake loose the foundations of the world—stillness doesn’t mean immobility. We can’t make ourselves ready for that day by our own power; we can’t force ourselves to be poor in spirit. Jesus himself prepares us for his Second Coming through this beatitude, offering us a new wealth, a new kingdom, and new life: grace. May the life of grace grow in us this Advent, letting us live in God’s presence, in noise and in quiet.

Today’s meditation: Ask God to increase your desire for him.