“Personally, I am perfectly calm, steadfastly facing what is to come. When one has really achieved complete surrender to the will of God, there is a marvelous feeling of peace and a sense of absolute security. I am in a joyous mood and filled with great anticipation.” – Hermann Lange, Dying We Live
These are the words written by a man from his prison cell, shortly before he was executed by the Nazis for an unknown crime. He had lost everything — family, friends, reputation, status, and his very life. Yet, in the midst of this profound experience of poverty, he discovered that he actually possessed everything that was essential. He was completely convinced of the absolute and unconditional love of God as he approached what he called the greatest hour of his life. Just before he was executed, he said, “I rejoice…because everything that till now I have done, struggled, and accomplished has, at bottom, been directed to this one goal, whose barrier I shall penetrate today. ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him’ (1 Cor 2:9).” This man experienced the profound peace and joy that comes with a total reliance on God and living from the truth that the poorer we become, the more we can experience His love.
Because ultimately, life isn’t about what we acquire or possess, but it’s about the One to whom we belong. Life is about letting ourselves be loved by and belong to Love Himself — Jesus Christ. In recognizing our absolute need for God, for a Savior, we are freed from self-reliance. This is the poverty of spirit that Jesus calls “blessed.” Jesus invites us into His own spirit of poverty when He says, “Learn of me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29). This posture of heart allows us to hold everything in this life a little more loosely and to cling to what is eternal.
If we insulate ourselves from our need for God, numb the pain of living in a fallen world, or get distracted by status, success, and possessions, we deprive ourselves of being held by Jesus in our weakness. As Cardinal O’Connor often repeated, “Whatever you own, owns you.” We might imagine that we best experience God’s love in the place of our strengths and talents. Rather, His love is most secure and profound in the place of our emptiness, brokenness, and weakness. There, His mercy overflows, and His power and love are made perfect. If we allow ourselves to be loved by God, we realize we have been created, and everything we have has been given to us. In letting ourselves belong to Him, we find the love and fulfillment for which our hearts were made.
Originally printed in IMPRINT Magazine Fall 2020.