Salvation is For the Poor

Salvation is For the Poor August 11, 2011

You know, I am sure that the kingdom of heaven is promised and given by the Lord only to the poor (cf. Mt 5:3): for he who loves temporal things loses the fruit of love. Such a person cannot serve God and Mammon, for either the one is loved and the other hated, or the one is served and the other despised (Mt. 6:24).[1]

They say behind every good man, there is a good woman, the one who holds them up and gives them their much needed support. There is no doubt that St Clare is the one who stood behind St Francis. She was able to effectively guide and direct the Franciscans after the death of St Francis, and to remind them of their mission. They were to follow the simplicity of Christ. Like Christ, they were to strip themselves off of all external glory so they can and did reside in the world as one of the poor. One who is clothed with wealth and riches is easily taken down by the fickle nature of fate; one who has voluntarily stripped themselves of all of it has nothing to lose and everything to gain:

You also know that one who is clothed cannot fight with another who is naked, because he is more quickly thrown who gives his adversary a chance to get hold of him; and the one who lives in the glory of the earth cannot rule with Christ in heaven.[2]

For most of us, these are hard words to hear. We know we are not to nihilistically reject the world. We know that one can be rich, in the way the world sees riches, and yet be among the poor. To do so, of course, requires detachment from wealth. Jesus’s kenosis did not remove his divinity, and so, one who is rich can follow Christ’s kenosis, dwell with and live with those around them in love. They can, like Christ, feed the poor by buying the poor the food they need. They can, like Christ, heal the poor by making sure their medical needs are met.  They can, like Christ, give of themselves, working for the needs of the poor, acting on and living on the preferential option for the poor.

And yet, we must remember, Christ’s own words do speak of a preferential option for the poor. It is not just an option for their earthly needs, telling us we must work for their betterment in the world above everyone else. It is a heavenly option for the poor. Christ tells us the poor are those who are blessed. Christ tells us that the lowly, the humble, the pure at heart are the ones who will see God. We are told the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.  The first, the leaders of the world, those who have wealth and luxury, are last in the kingdom of heaven. The last, the poor, the destitute, the neglected, the ones society even sees as worthless – they are the ones who are brought into the heavenly feast and given a place of honor (cf. Lk 14:14-24). “They rarely fall away, who lack the delights of sin; and those who have nothing in the world to delight in are more quickly converted to grace. “[3]

The preferential option for the poor is fundamental to the Gospel, for it is indeed, the message of the Gospel. In the person of Jesus, the one and only Jubilee is established. We are all poor in relation to God. The question is not whether or not the poor should be given preference, the question is whether or not we will recognize our own poverty. Will we remain attached to the way of the world or will we see its relative value and cast it aside so that we can properly meet and follow Christ?


[1] St. Clare, “The First Letter to Blessed Agnes of Prague” in Francis and Clare: the Writings. Trans. Regis J. Armstrong, O.F.M. CAP. And Ignatius Brady, O.F.M. (New York: Paulist Press, 1982), 193.

[2] Ibid., 193.

[3] St Anthony of Padua, Sermons for Sundays and Festivals: Volume II. Trans. Paul Spilsbury (Padova: Edizioni Messaggero Padova, 2007), 48.

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  • This is quite beautiful, Henry. Thank you.

    • Thanks. I wanted to do something for St Clare’s feast, so I decided to look through her writings again. It wasn’t long before I found the right theme! So you should also thank her, too 😉

  • This is quite beautiful, Henry. Thank you.

    • Thanks. I wanted to do something for St Clare’s feast, so I decided to look through her writings again. It wasn’t long before I found the right theme! So you should also thank her, too 😉

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Happy feast day Henry! St. Clare was one righteous babe.

  • David Cruz-Uribe, SFO

    Happy feast day Henry! St. Clare was one righteous babe.

  • Mark Gordon

    This is such a great week for saints. Dominic, Clare, Edith Stein, Maximilian Kolbe, Philomena, Lawrence, Hippolytus. What a bunch!

    • And Saturday is St Maximus the Confessor… a real important saint for me!

  • Mark Gordon

    This is such a great week for saints. Dominic, Clare, Edith Stein, Maximilian Kolbe, Philomena, Lawrence, Hippolytus. What a bunch!

    • And Saturday is St Maximus the Confessor… a real important saint for me!