Reflection on Poverty based on Richard Rohr’s Simplicity, the Art of Living: “Less is More”

& nbsp; On my study and reflection on poverty, I chose Richard Rohr’s book, “Simplicity, the Art of Living,” because I believe that simplicity is the fruit of living out authentic poverty. Its last chapter entitled “Less is More,” presented a broad yet practical and understanding of poverty. Rohr talked about poverty not only in the material sense but in all dimensions of life.

Rohr wrote that the Sermon on the Mount is the unmistakable teaching of Jesus that all of us have evaded. The Sermon on the Mount speaks of being meek, humble, poor and peaceful, but the world’s standards have instilled in us the value of certainty and security, because in an early stage of life the first thing we need is certainty. But Jesus doesn’t offer certainties; He offers us a journey of faith. It is to live in trust and hope in God’s providence that one can journey in faith. And it is what poverty really is. The real meaning of a poor life is a life of radical dependency, so that one can’t arrange his or her life in such a way that he or she needs other.

The western people first raised the questions of power and control. It is the adherence to the idea that more is good versus inner obedience and capitalist mind-set versus selflessness and real poverty. Because of this, sometimes it seems that Jesus’ only program for social reform is non-cooperation and non- idolatry, which will usually necessitate living a simple life. Jesus had come to preach the gospel to the poor since it is the fact that they are the only ones who can hear it. They don’t have to prove and protect anything. The question is, “what keeps us from being open and poor?”

The words of the Gospel never lets us empty, rather they always make us empty. They allow us to keep our wounds open so we can receive Christ in us. It seems we’re incapable of welcoming Christ, because we’re so stuffed full of ourselves. The real things we have to let go of is our self. We are not really free until we are free from ourselves.

Richard Rohr quoted Meister Ekchart that “the spiritual life has more to do with subtraction than addition.” It is to detach oneself from worldly attachment that impedes us to be free. It is really simple to live our poverty. But if we have not lived and experienced enough within ourselves, we are tempted to accumulate more and more outer things as substitutes for self- worth. It means that we tend to identify ourselves with what we have or with our status. This is the great spiritual illusion. We need not to acquire what we already have. The poor of this world are often much happier than most people. They don’t need to constantly project their soul onto things and so they can find it within themselves. They cannot work from the assumption that the external things will offer them fulfillment. The truth can reach us only when we find ourselves at a place of dependency, openness, “longing and thirsting.”

It’s amazing, Rohr said, that Christianity is the only religion that dares to call God a lamb. And nevertheless, we’ve spend two thousand years avoiding vulnerability. It means that the way we see God in Jesus as meek, humble, merciful and poor is incongruent in the way we live.

Spirituality and faith have more to do with subtraction, with becoming less, than addition, with becoming more. And to subtract is also to let go. It is to let go of the past by forgiving oneself. It is to let go of the future by letting go of fears, cares, and exaggerated needs for security. And it is also to let go of the present by letting go the need to be something someone special here and now. It is to give-up one’s titles, public image and social status. We have to move to the place of self-forgetfulness, of nothingness. Thus it requires trust and confidence in the providence of God.

Rohr also quoted C.G. Jung saying: “My journey consisted in climbing down ten thousand ladders so that now, at the end of my life I can extend the hand of friendship to this little clod of earth that I am. In etymology, human means humus or earth. Being human means acknowledging that we’re made from earth and will return to earth. It means that living real poverty will draw us to humility. And it is God who made us, therefore we return to Him.

As a Franciscan, Rohr also cited St. Francis words, “loving the leper within us.” It is also the same with loving the poor in us. It is in doing so that we’ll discover that we have the room for compassion “outside” too, that there is room in us for others, for those who are different from us, for the least among our sisters and brothers. It is the sense of poverty reflected outside.

Indeed, less is more. Only those who have nothing to prove and nothing to protect, those who have in them a broad space big enough to embrace every part of their own soul, can receive the Christ. And Christ Himself will lead us on this path.

Richard Rohr has presented poverty in a wider perspective. Poverty was explained both in its material and spiritual dimension. Through this, the shallow understanding of poverty that is juxtaposed with misery would be avoided. Poverty has to be understood in more reasonable, practical and mature way. Poverty should lead a person not into misery but into intimacy with God. It is with real poverty that we detach ourselves from worldly things that usually substitute our self-worth. It is through living poverty that we get more in touch with our own self, with our wounds and frailties. It is only then that we feel empty and longing for God, since it is only God who can heal our wounds and fill our emptiness. It is indeed only through living out authentic poverty that one can live a simple life.

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