Posted by: Thomas Richard | November 16, 2019

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

Example 1: The Biblical story of Martha and Mary addresses so well, and simply, the inadequacy (and indeed spiritual danger) of “charitable” busyness.  So many in the Church want to busy themselves about “doing good” for others – but in such busyness, they can fail to realize the cries deep in their own souls for attention, for care, indeed cries in poverty for the Bread of Life itself.

As they continued their journey he entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.
She had a sister named Mary [who] sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak.
Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”
The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things.
There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”
(Luke 10:38-42, NAB)

Charitable busyness, as a way of religious life, has a lot of “positives” to attract religious people!  Jesus wants us to do good for others; most parishes have openings for volunteers to help do this or that ministry, getting involved is a good way to make friends, and so on.  Really generous Catholics who can quickly find themselves over-committed in the parish, can find themselves echoing the complaint that Martha rather boldly took to Jesus in her need for some help: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.”

Wonderfully, Jesus’s response to Martha was greater and deeper than her request to Him.  His love for her – His desire to serve her – was greater than her desire to serve Him her meal.  Jesus came to serve the Bread of Life; Martha in her charitable busyness had been missing the whole point of everything.

Example 2: The excerpt below is an account of an experience of a priest (young at that time) with (now Saint) Mother Teresa, concerning the crucial need for authentic Life in the souls of those called to serve others:

I telephoned the general house of the Missionaries of Charity so as to be able to meet Mother Teresa of Calcutta, but their answer was categorical: “It is not possible to meet Mother; her engagements do not allow it.” I went there anyway. The Sister who came to open the door for me very politely asked me, ..’What do you want?” I would just like to meet Mother Teresa for a few moments.” Surprised, the sister replied-, “I am sorry! That is not possible!” I did not budge and thus made the Sister understand that I would not leave without having met Mother Teresa. The Sister went away for a few moments, and came back in the company of Mother Teresa….

I was startled and speechless. Mother had me sit down in a little room near the chapel. Meanwhile I had recovered a bit and managed to say: “Mother, I am a very young priest: I’m taking my first steps! I came to ask you to accompany me with your prayers.” Mother looked tenderly and kindly at me, then, smiling, she replied: “I always pray for priests. I will pray for you also.” Then she gave me a Miraculous Medal, put it in my hand, and asked me, “For how much time do you pray each day?” I was astonished and a little embarrassed. Then, gathering my thoughts, I replied, “Mother, I celebrate Holy Mass each day, I pray the Breviary each day; you know that these days that is a proof of heroism [this was in 1969, before the Divine Office was simplified]! I pray the rosary each day also and very gladly, because I learned it from my mother.” 

Mother Teresa, with her rough hands, clasped the rosary that she always had with her. Then she fixed on me her eyes, which were filled with light and love, and said: “That is not enough, my son! That is not enough, because love cannot be reduced to the indispensable minimum; love demands the maximum!” I did not understand Mother Teresa’s words right away, and, as though to justify myself I replied, “Mother, I expected from you instead, this question: What acts of charity do you do?” Suddenly Mother Teresa’s face became very serious again, and she said in a stern tone of voice: “Do you think that I could practice charity if I did not ask Jesus every day to fill my heart with his love? Do you think that I could go through the streets looking for the poor if Jesus did not communicate the fire of his charity to my heart?” I then felt very small….

I looked at Mother Teresa with profound admiration and the sincere desire to enter into the mystery of her soul, which was so filled with the presence of God. Enunciating each word, she added: “Read the Gospel attentively, and you will see that Jesus sacrificed even charity for prayer. And do you know why? To teach us that, without God, we are too poor to help the poor!” At that time we saw so many priests and religious abandoning prayer in order to immerse themselves — as they said — in social work. Mother Teresa’s words seemed to me like a ray of sunshine, and I repeated slowly in my heart of hearts: “Without God, we are too poor to be able to help the poor!”

“There is need for only one thing.”  Without God within, we can do nothing.  Without God within, we are too poor to be able to help anyone, not the rich, not the poor.  May the Lord help us to know our own poverty, and hear His call to us: “Come!” 

Is 51: 1 All you who are thirsty,
come to the water!
You who have no money,
come, buy grain and eat;
Come, buy grain without money,
wine and milk without cost!

2 Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what does not satisfy?
Only listen to me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.

3 Pay attention and come to me;
listen, that you may have life.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
the steadfast loyalty promised to David.

 The excerpt, the young priest and Mother Teresa, included above is from the book by Robert Card. Sarah, The Power of Silence, Ignatius Press 2017, p. 46-47, quoting Dio scrive dritto [God writes straight] by Angelo Comastri, at time of press a cardinal archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.


  1. Dear Thomas,

    Thanks so much for this blog article — as we end this liturgical year and begin Advent. The need for Prayer is so urgent today, and Advent, intended to be a prayerful preparation for the Coming of Christ has become especially so very “busy” that it is almost unrecognizable!

    Both Cardinal Sarah’s books “The Day is Now Far Spent” (written after his book “The Power of Silence” from which you quoted) are an encouragement to those who read them, to hear more, as you point out in the Scriptural account of “Martha and Mary”. How we need to grow in our interior lives and seek God within before we serve!

    What beauty in Jesus’ love for Martha and Mary, and what perfect examples of loving, prayerful service we see in our Mother Mary and in St. Mother Teresa!

  2. Thanks Thomas. I hope lots of people read this post. America is in such a mess. People wanted the visible God gone from America. Now He is and we are crumbling. God have mercy on us and on the whole world.

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