I am poor, too

Edouard Manet, Beggar with a Duffle Coat, 1865Whenever I see a beggar, homeless or poor person in the streets, I have this moment of “Shall I or shall I not?” Pope Francis encourages Christians to give something, in any case. I know that many beggars are part of a bigger, very well organized group. What a shame that the poorest are misused in this way. So, shall I give a donation?

Recently I found myself begging for something before God. I cannot remember what I asked for. It must have been something of minor importance, but I remember the intensity of my begging – and felt ashamed. To my surprise, it seemed that God had nothing against me begging. On the contrary. “Ask and it will be given to you,” Jesus says in Matthew 7:7, describing God as a good and loving father.

Great care and concern are to be shown in receiving poor people and pilgrims, because in them more particularly Christ is received. (Rule of St. Benedict 53:15)

Saint Benedict admonishes his monks to take care of the poor. They are a reminder that we are poor, too. We are tremendously blessed because we have a home, food, work, family, and friends, but in the end, we are beggars, too. Before God we are poor because we depend on him. By giving to those who are materially truly poor, we acknowledge our own poverty. Benedict sees this as a step to humility:

The sixth step of humility is that a monk is content with the lowest and most menial treatment, and regards himself as a poor and worthless workman in whatever task he is given.” (Rule of St. Benedict 7:49)

A confrere of mine encouraged me to always have a bill or two at hand for the poor. It does not matter if their begging is justified. They are begging. Just as I am begging in my prayers. God does not ignore our cries. We should not ignore theirs.

Dear Lord, I ask you for all poor people in the streets and for those who do not appear in the streets, for those whose cry can be heard and those whose needs are hidden before our eyes, to graciously listen to them. And I ask you to listen to me, in all my intentions and in all I bring to your attention. Do not despise me. I know that you don’t.

9 thoughts on “I am poor, too

  1. I once knew a wise and holy older woman who it seemed had been given the spiritual gift of healing. She prayed and people often were healed, sometimes miraculously. I asked her once how she prayed for these things. She said simply ,” I take the person before the lord and beg him to heal. I beg, he heals. ”
    The lord listens to beggars, I think this means that we should too.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been thinking about the decision to give (or not to give) to a beggar on the street since Pope Francis suggested that giving “is always right,” whether one thinks the other is truly in need or not. A few evenings ago, as I was leaving a movie theater, having spent a lovely evening with friends, there was a homeless man with a sign asking for donations. Engaged in conversation, I quickly walked by him. I was unsure if I had any cash on me at the time, but as I reflected on my thoughts and actions, I realized that I did not (or could not) look the man in the eye, and I wondered why. If I had know I had money with me, would I have given it to him? Would I have looked him in the eye then? I felt a sense of shame–some for not giving him money, but more so that I hadn’t looked at him directly. Looking someone in the eye honors their dignity–it acknowledges WHO THEY ARE.

    I am considering more that “tossing money and not looking in (their) eyes is not a Christian” way of behaving. Pope Francis suggests the way one reaches out to the person asking for help is important and must be done “by looking them in the eyes and touching their hands.” It is really about honoring the dignity of another, regardless of whether we feel the other is deserving.

    Last evening, after my husband and I enjoyed a lovely restaurant meal, we encountered the same scene from earlier in the week–a homeless man with a sign asking for money. As we walked by, not looking at him directly, I paused. We had a quick discussion about giving some money or not–and I remembered Pope Francis’ advice: It is not my job to determine whether this man is truly in need or to be concerned about where the money shall be spent. And it’s not even about whether I can afford a dollar or two, of which I am quite able. If I can’t spare a dollar on the way to a concert that cost $150, then it says more about me than the beggar. I shall give out of gratitude.

    So I gave the man some money and I looked him in the eye. I will make this a habit. I
    believe it will be a practice in withholding judgment and freely giving. Perhaps God is simply training me for other situations that will require a radical generosity of heart. We are all poor. Jesus said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6:20) Blessings, Jodi

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I find that when I stop to give someone some money who is begging on the street, I am always enriched by the experience. Maybe it’s just that brief moment of connection. Conversely, when I walk by trying not to notice the person, I feel momentarily impoverished. Ironically, I am richer by giving- and the “return” on my investment in my brother or sister stays with me longer than anything else that money could have produced. And if my generosity exceeds my normal cheapskate buck or two, I am absolutely tickled for hours. I once gave a woman I saw rummaging through the trash for food a $20 bill. I STILL am smiling thinking about it. I could not tell you what I did with the next $20 bill in my wallet- probably bought some junk food that I didn’t want or need. But I remember that first 20 and I am still warmed by it. “In as much…”. I’m convinced! Thanks Fr.M for this post. We are all poor. And Jodi, thanks for the reminder to look the person in the eyes with dignity. We are looking into the eyes of Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I guess I have always had the wrong attitude about giving to people standing in the intersection of streets with signs up begging for money, I always feel they are really not starving or without a home, they are just seeing what they can get from the public, one man told a man at my church he gets about $130 a day begging tax free he said, that has always stayed in my head.
    Now I will give to any hungry person, and if I ever seen someone digging in a dumpster I would give for sure.
    We have people standing in streets now with dogs on a leash, I do feel very sorry for the dogs.
    I do give to people just not street beggars, maybe I will start anew

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Before I read this article I felt somehow rich. But the more I think about it, the more I find that I am poor. I am a beggar, too! Almost daily I am begging for wisdom, but I am still not wise. I am begging for truth, but I still can’t see it. I am begging for light, but there are still shadows. I am begging for love, but my heart still needs to be prepared for the love of enemies. The more I beg, the more I am aware that I don’t have it. I can work on it, still I know I can’t earn it. It is only available by the Grace of God. I depend on HIM!
    By the Missionary Benedictines’ example I learned the importance of praising. So I am thanking and praising God for all I already have. This habit makes me feel rich again. With all the poverty still there is so much to be grateful for.
    I don’t understand the verse Luke 6 :20: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Isn’t the meaning rather spiritually than materially?
    It would be very nice, if somebody knew a commentary/explanation on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This morning I had a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery in my calendar, which says:
    “The humility of the heart does not require to humble yourself, but to open up yourself.
    This is the key of exchange. Only then you are able to give and to receive.”

    If we close our heart for beggars, our heart will be closed for the gifts which want to come to us. We won’t be able to receive them.
    If this is true, we should practice to give with an open heart.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to Steve Blum Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.