Poor Jesus

Published June 26, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Fr. Rolando V. De La Rosa, OP


Fr. Rolando V. dela Rosa, O.P.

In today’s gospel reading, a young man enthusiastically volunteered to be a follower of Jesus, but he received this reply: “Foxes have dens, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Mt. 8:20).

What Jesus meant was: “You want to be my follower? Look at me. I don’t have a house, nor a place to sleep in. I am a very poor man. I don’t even have anything I can call my own.” True enough, Jesus did not acquire any property while on earth. Everything that He had was either borrowed or given to Him. The dirty manger where He was born was not His. From the beginning of His ministry, He did not call any place his home. He would go from place to place, often sleeping in the desert or some secluded place. In the end, He was buried in a borrowed tomb. Jesus lived and died a poor man.

But although Jesus proclaimed, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Mt. 5:3), He did not romanticize poverty. For Him, being poor in spirit did not mean a lack of money, property, or sufficient means for a decent livelihood. It did not mean being a beggar or an informal settler.

For Jesus, poverty in spirit meant the ability to give up everything that would hinder Him from being totally available and attentive to people who needed Him. This found its ultimate expression in His supreme act of self-emptying by offering His body and blood for the life of the world. This is the kind of poverty that He wanted us to imitate.

Let’s face it. We all have the tendency to consider everything that we have—whether purchased or not—as our permanent possession. So we guard it lest it be stolen or lost. The lesson Jesus wanted to teach us is actually very simple. Do not call anything your own, so you will not be afraid to lose it. For, how can you ever lose something which you never claimed as yours?

Human acquisitiveness can tempt us to accumulate and hoard things until we no longer know when we already have enough. We become numb to the needs of others.

A recent magazine article about one of the richest men in America says that he has to spend six million dollars a day for the next 33 years to use up all this money. He recently donated 100 million dollars for the free vaccination of poor children. But compared to his total wealth, that is practically nothing. If his money were 10,000 pesos, the money he donated would be barely one centavo. His fear of losing his money hinders him from giving more, and drives him to work harder and longer.

The best antidote to our fear of losing our possessions is to view everything we have as merely borrowed. A time will come when we will leave everything behind. Before that happens, we must learn to practice the art of giving up. Things that we own eventually own us.

Unclutter your life. Perhaps, a good way to start is to say this prayer: “Lord, simplify my life. Keep me from the fatal habit of wanting things even if I already have so much. Teach me the sublime truth that happiness lies not in having much, but in needing less; that happiness lies not in clinging on to my possessions with all my strength, but in clinging no more.”