My church has had an hermanamiento with a sister community in Nicaragua for the past eighteen years. I went on the first delegation in 1996, and have been in the village at least sixteen times since then. They are a people very dear to me.
A delegation just returned and brought me many letters and a big sheet signed by many menbers of the community wishing me well and a happy birthday. They know that I have cancer and have told me emphatically that they pray for me every day, and I believe them.
I mention this community, the faith community called The Church of the Poor in the village of Dulce Nombre de Jesus, because I want to do my reflection on the last text of the February 2 Lectionary, Mathew 5, as a letter to this community.
Dear brothers and sisters in Dulce Nombre de Jesus,
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the letters and messages you sent back to me with the last delegation. I know you keep me in your prayers, and I want you to know that I keep you in my prayers as well.
Today I am supposed to comment on the words of Jesus from the Fifth chapter of Mathew. I think these words were written to a community just like yours, so I am going to express my thoughts about this passage as though Jesus is talking about your community.
5:3 “Blessed are those who have the spirit of the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
I know your lives and I know your hearts and I want you to know that you set an example for all of the people of the world who seek to live a faithful life in a covenantal community with God as their guide.
I have watched you over these years and tried to learn from you how the spirit is among you. You understand that you must help each other; that you cannot survive as individuals each looking out for your own interest, but you must rely on each other as a community. That is how the poor have always survived, and it is how the spirit of God is able to enter into your lives and the lives of your community.
I must confess that when we pray the Lord’s prayer in my church, I always speak when others are pausing. Others say: Thy kingdom come, (pause) Thy will be done (pause) on earth as it is in heaven. I always say Thy will be done on earth I want you to know that God’s will is that the kingdom come to earth, now. I think that along with those of us from the Church of the Covenant who have learned from you the meaning of the spirit of the poor, there are those in heaven who have learned as well.
I say to you that your are blessed for embodying the spirit of the poor, and in living with this spirit I know that the kingdom of God is with you here on earth, this day, and all of the days of your lives.
Jesus goes on to name you as those who mourn, those who are meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart and the peacemakers. I have seen all of these things in your village. I believe Jesus was speaking directly to you when he calls you blessed.
And Jesus also knows that sometimes you are persecuted for righteousness sake. It is not easy to maintain the spirit of the poor in these times. We are all tempted to be selfish and abandon our communities and covenant with each other and with God, and holding onto these views sometimes causes us to be ridiculed and even persecuted. Jesus promises that you will be rewarded in heaven, and I tell you that your blessings will be felt here on earth as well; by the spirit of God that you experience in your community.
I thank God that you have welcomed me into your community and taught me the true meaning of these words of Jesus. It is my prayer that you feel Jesus among you, speaking directly to you, for he was a campesino like you are. He knows your lives and promised deliverance and blessings to you who remain faithful to the vision of the spirit of the poor.
It is my prayer that I, too, can remain faithful to that same spirit.
My thoughts are always with you, dear friends.
With love and appreciation,
Noel, de la Iglesia del Pacto