“Joy in Poverty,” how paradoxical! I wonder how a person could possibly be ecstatic and exuberant when suffering and in pain, contented and at peace during scarcity, joyful and radiant when there is nothing left but nothingness. Could there in truth and reality, be joy in poverty when it actually means humiliation, oppression, shame, and disgust?

Francis is the humble light and answer to the many ‘how could it be’ questions that keep on hammering our minds. He might as well inspire us to bravely and freely embrace this paradox.

Francis was born rich but chose to embrace total poverty. He left the comfort, luxury, and security of his biological father’s house, clothed himself with a hermit’s tunic and cord, and lived with the lepers. He left everything to live like Jesus, the Incarnate Word, ‘the God who emptied himself, took the form of a slave and was born just like human beings.’ He literally and radically imitated and followed the footsteps of Jesus. He lived a life of extreme economic and spiritual poverty – a life of total dependence on God. Through a life of poverty, he learned Jesus’ ways. Experience (especially of poverty), which is very real and concrete, became Francis’ best teacher to know and learn to live Jesus’ ways. By being poor, he lived life the way the human Jesus did. He unceasingly preached and prayed. He used poetry, songs, drama, and symbols but above all these, his life was the excellent preaching and prayer that clearly witnessed to and revealed his message: Jesus. For Francis if Jesus was born helpless, dependent, and poor, there is no room for shame but an assurance of life controlled by meaning and intimate relationship with God, people, and the rest of all of creation.

Distinction and separation ceased to be for Francis. Everything- God, People, World – all creation fit into the circle of life that God designed out of love for us. Everything is interconnected and dependent on God who loved us and continues to love us. Through the historical man Jesus, God shows us not only how to be loved but also what is love and how to love. A love that embraces everything even the seemingly impossible, that is willfully and freely choosing to be poor in order to bring good out of evil, life out of death.

Jesus, the One who was born in a crib taking our entire humanity but sin, lived a poor life with people, was crucified and died, is God’s love who befriended the homeless, the oppressed, the sick, the sorrowing, the outcasts, and the sinners in an extremely loving fashion. Jesus is the justice of God who reached out to people, uplifted them and drew them closer to God with charming compassion. Jesus is the Beloved who embraced people and all of creation in an intimate and freeing relationship. Jesus is the poor, obedient, and faithful man who always lived in communion and total dependence with the One he called ‘Abba’. The same Jesus – human and poor Jesus, who swallowed and defeated death, is also the One Francis imitated, followed, and deeply loved.

Francis, convinced pf the immensity of God’s love, lived in poverty and identified himself with the poor. There is nothing to fear of be ashamed of. He has nothing but God who loves, is present and alive. He went around preaching and praying allowing people to touch him, engaging himself in profound conversation, befriending people, knowing people’s deepest being, sharing their sorrow, pains and desires. Poverty (not wealth, power, and status) brought Francis true freedom and joy. Poverty taught him the way of love and compassion that is capable of sorrow, of seeing goodness out of evil, of bringing hope in despair, of allowing everything to pass through him. Poverty made Francis an authentic joyful loving human.

Every time I think of Francis, I am reminded of what a song is. A song has rhythm, expresses and is full of varying emotions especially the deepest and genuine ones, appeals to the soul and depth and speaks both dark and radiant experiences. A song may be different from the other songs but they are all about human dynamism and people in their continuous becoming. A song is about life. Life is a song. G. Gutierrez says,”There is no Christian life without ‘songs’ to the Lord, without thanksgiving for God’s love, and without prayer. But these songs,” he continues,”are sung by persons living in particular historical situations, and these provides the framework within which they perceive God’s presence and also God’s absence.” However, Francis did not merely sing a song but lived it concretely in poverty where he experienced God’s presence and gave birth to it. His life is a song of endless praise to God, people, and nature. His life is a song of joyful prayer, thanksgiving, hope friendship, and love. Francis is a joyful song, a love song.

At present, we are living in a time and a world controlled by myths, full of violence and colored with lies, which continue to dehumanize and alienate people to their world and to themselves. Oppression and poverty escalate, ecocide becomes tragic at the worst, suffering severe, and death plagues. Events go beyond the imaginable. The dominant culture (i.e. The capitalist) does not oppress only lower culture but poison also the global world with the needs it persistently creates promoting a meaningful life measured by wealth and power (at other’s expense!). Indeed, we are called to be Francis of our time – persons capable of embracing the paradox of human living and becoming. We are faced with great challenge of making God’s presence alive in the suffering of our people, in the presence of death, violence, and hunger, and in abominable hopelessness. Our prayer and life commitment (especially as pastoral workers) are dared by these realities leaving us a narrow way in conquering them (prudently and with good). We ought to have the courage to leave our own personal comfort zones, overcome our fears and insecurities and love these people with the love of the cross, summoned to give a sensitive and appropriate response motivated by compassion and love. We are forever called to be songs for others who, like Francis, joyfully give witness and birth to Jesus Christ.

Every time the Cup is raised, let us remember the supreme love totally given to each of us in the humblest manner and take seriously the call for us to do the same.

Gutierrez, G. We Drink From Our Own Wells. Quezon City: Claretian Publications,1984.
Handouts. The Life of Francis of Assisi… Stepping-Stones and Franciscan Spirituality. (Given

November 2001).
Personal Notes on Sr. M. Thomas and Ms. M. Altarejos’lecture on ‘Joy in Poverty’of Francis.


paulvr173cm said...

Hi! Taste Asia! hehehe nako poverty ang topic. Serious!

gharri said...

di ko kayang sagutin sa ngayon.

axl said...

Joy in poverty is like saying there's happiness in suffering. It is very paradoxical. How can one be happy when he's experiencing suffering? It's like saying I don't have food to eat and I can't give anything to my children but it's alright, I'm happy. Paradoxical or hypocracy, what is important is that you learn to accept and carry your burden and do something to ease your sufferings.

Earl Spartan said...

there is joy in poverty. just like light in darkness or fullness in emptiness or receiving in giving.

to accept a gift, we must learn how to unload, sacrifice, and let go. we cannot always "get".

joy in poverty is paradoxical but definitely not hypocracy. also, poverty could mean many things... but i don't think poverty should always be equated to suffering. poverty can only be a suffering if it is considered as such instead of a blessing... or a chance to grow and evolve.