October 31, 2015

Solemnity of All Saints


Poor and Clean of Heart

We have been reading from the Gospel According to Mark. For this feast of All Saints, we switch to the Matthew. However, the passages from Mark of the last two Sundays might give us some good examples to reflect on two of the “beatitudes” – “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “Blessed are the clean of heart.”

In the Gospel for the 29th Sunday, James and John asked Jesus to let them sit one at his right and one at his left. Worse than their demand is the way they speak to Jesus, “We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (Mark 10: 35). That doesn't seem to be the attitude of the poor in spirit. They think highly of themselves. They appear presumptuous or even arrogant.

Their attitude leads James and John to make such an obnoxious demand. The demand also suggests their desire for power and control.

The blind man Bartimaeus, on the contrary, acknowledges his nothingness. More importantly, he recognizes and professes his faith in the Son of David. He pleads with Jesus to “have pity on” him (Mark 10: 47, Gospel for 30th Sunday). He is poor both in possessions and in spirit.

The recognition of his poverty leads Bartimaeus to depend on Jesus, not on his possessions, position, connections, or talents. And once he has received the sight that he asks for, he follows Jesus as Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem.

Looking at it this way reminds us that the two beatitudes “Blessed are the poor in spirit” and “Blessed are the clean of heart” go together. If and when we are poor in spirit then we become more dependent on God. God becomes more the sole assurance of our heart.  

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