This past week one of the daily readings from the Old Testament taught a pertinent lesson about coping with evil. The passage I want to highlight is the one about the king of Judah who inherited the throne at the tender age of 18 and made a mess of it immediately. (2 Kings 24:8-17) The enemy who was literally at the gate was the Babylonians led by King Nebuchadnezzar. What facilitated the fall of the people was their collective refusal to listen to the word of God as spoken through Scripture and the prophets. They sat idly while the Temple was dismantled and all the important liturgical vessels were broken up and taken away by their plunderers, (they let their values be literally thrown aside). Then, three months into the young king’s reign most of the people were taken away into Babylon as exiles: “…all the officers and men of the army… all the craftsmen and smiths. None were left among the people of the land except the poor.” (2 Kings 24:14) The king, his mother, his ministers, and his entire retinue were exiled also. Only the poor remained while Nebuchadnezzar put a new king on the throne, Zedekiah, who would eventually allow the last bit of Israel to fall into dust.
May we be people of the Beatitudes, becoming pure of heart! May we continually pray for guidance, wisdom, and the grace to persevere with humility, but with the boldness to stand firm in our beliefs! May we act with justice and mercy, having the discernment to know how to combine both of those graces! May we have the eyes to never stop seeing the beauty in the world because we are distracted by the ugly things! And may we be as the poor, holding on to Jesus who let go of everything in order to save us! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of Jesus, clinging to nothing but Him. Peace!
©Michele L. Catanese
All the photos are mine. This first one was taken in Little Rock, Arkansas on a nature trail. I chose this photo because it reminded me of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus said for us to look at the birds of the air who do not sow or reap yet are taken care of by the Father; and again later in the passage Jesus said for us to look at the flowers of the field which do not work or spin yet are arrayed in splendor. (Matthew 6:26-29) Jesus was speaking of the radical poverty of spirit needed to rely totally on the Father. Both the bird and the flowers in this photo speak of this passage.
The next photo was taken in Big Bend National Park in west Texas. I chose this one because of the starkness of the scene. I was thinking of the Babylonian Exile and the Israelites' march through the desert to arrive in a foreign land. There is no greater poverty than having lost everything, including ones homeland. If you look closely, you can see mountains in the distance, suggesting a land far off.
Next is a painting by Bl. Fra Angelico, called The Sermon on the Mount. The desert-like spot, the seemingly bare mountain where they are sitting, is almost shocking, but to me it says that the words of Jesus are teaching them to see more than is obvious. He is teaching them to see mercy, beauty, compassion, love and all that God desires for us to have in our interior landscape, as well as that which He is teaching us to see in others. Life will come into the desert of hearts that are far from God when we allow Jesus to enter.
Next are two panels from a larger work called Viriditas: Finding God in All Things, by Fr. William Hart McNichols. In the far left panel is St. Francis of Assisi receiving the stigmata. St. Francis was often called 'Il Poverello' (the Poor One) because of his radical embracing of 'Lady Poverty.' He truly lived what Jesus described in the Sermon on the Mount. In the panel to the right are St. Hildegard, the Child Jesus, and St. Ignatius Loyola. St. Hildegard lived a poverty of spirit that allowed her to open her soul so greatly to God that she became a mystic who definitely had the eyes to see what so few could see. St. Ignatius is famous for teaching us to see God in all things especially through his Spiritual Exercises. I chose this icon because of the confluence of the holy people depicted. All are about seeing God in everything; all are about poverty of spirit. Notice the cross which is sprouting new life. The Christ Child is reaching up for it as if to say that His death upon that cross will sprout forth the new life of salvation. He is the Little Child that leads us. You can find the diptych and the entire work at http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/william-hart-mcnichols.html?tab=artworkgalleries&artworkgalleryid=584247.
Last is a photo of a cactus in bloom taken at Big Bend National Park in Texas. I chose it because there is much life in the desert. In the midst of barrenness there is the potential for life; in fact, there is much beauty in any desert. There is a wealth in being poor. That is, when we make room for God, His beauty can take root within us. There is no greater wealth than that.