Something called the “Poverty Movement” was popular in the middle ages. Men and women voluntarily gave up their financial resources to share with the materially poor. Often these people were members of the nobility but not always. The emerging middle class also joined in the “poverty movement”. Clare of Assisi and Francis of Assisi are two more noted examples of “poverty movement” devotees. Their focus was on the person of Jesus Christ who lived without property and whose life focused on the Divine presence within and around. Clare and Francis wished for the same.
In our present economy, certainly in the United States where people are struggling financially and all throughout the world where people do without food every day, voluntary participation in any sort of “poverty movement” seems bizarre. The point cannot be missed, however. Even though the means to end for Clare and Francis was to renounce financial resources, the means was not what was most important. It was the end. Brother Bill Short, a Franciscan Brother suggests in his book, “Poverty and Joy” that poverty itself can never be the value. Rather in coming among us as one of us Jesus relinquished wealth, status and domination over others. This was the “holy poverty” of Jesus and something Francis and Clare learned. Brother Bill Short goes on to say, “Following this example, living sine proprio, without anything of one’s own, today implies the refusal to arrogate to one’s self what belongs to all, because all belongs to the Creator. Everything is gift, nothing is ‘property”. It isn’t what we have that is most important it is what we do with it: financial resources, yes, and yet all the gifts that we have that we cling and grasp. Our world is aching for equitable sharing of resources. The Christian scriptures also weigh in on our discussion.
In the Gospel of Mark (Mark 10:17-30) Jesus tells a person on their journey, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, then come follow me.” At that statement the person’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Jesus readily acknowledged the difficulty. We want the greatest treasure of all, trust and confidence in the Divine that is within us and around us, yet opening our hands to that Divine Energy at times means letting go of the grip on what is sure and before us. Our possessions can take many different shapes and sizes–and how ironic is the invitation to let go of what we have to be open to the greatest treasure of all. It is no wonder that often we walk away from embracing the winding path laden with treasures beyond our comprehension.
Our invitation is to embrace the winding path.
Blessings and peace.