I never got beyond ‘poor in spirit’ during Lent: it isn’t a starting place, from which we grow to become spiritually rich. It is, rather, an acknowledgment that we are earthen vessels, waiting to be filled by the Spirit. Acknowledging weakness does not set us on the path to becoming strong, but turns us toward the Source of all strength.
Jean Vanier reminded me this morning of the revelation of God in our weakness, in his reflection on his participation in the Pope’s pilgrimage to Lourdes in 2004:
During that time I walked close to John Paul II. I was moved by the seriousness of his disability, his speech difficulties due to Parkinson’s disease. One person told me after the pilgrimage, ‘It was too hard to watch him on the television. He should retire–or die–soon!’ How many times I have heard that said about people with disabilities. It is an attitude that humanly speaking is understandable! It is hard to see and be close to people in pain. Through his physical poverty, the Pope reveals a mystery; he is a living symbol of the presence of God in weakness. Even more than by his words, through his fragile body he is teaching us now the value of each human life; he is showing us a path towards holiness. I was also touched by his humility and courage, the spark of life in his eyes, the way he accepts the humiliating reality of his condition today and his extreme tenderness. His is a sign of the glory of God who is manifested in and through his poverty and vulnerability (Our Life Together, p 520).