Jesuit poverty has a goal: apostolic availability. In living a Jesuit life, we are here to find and make God’s love, freedom, and joy ever-better known in the world. Accordingly, we discern our standard of poverty through the lens of availability. A great place to start, to sensitize ourselves to this standard of poverty, is to look at Jesus’ life as an example. Some of the ways that Jesus experienced poverty are not what we would expect.
Here are 41 illustrations of Jesus’ poverty, through the lens of the Gospel of Mark:
1:9 – Jesus humbles himself to be baptized by John.
1:22 – Jesus taught with authority and spoke out boldly.
1:30 – Jesus visited the sick, and chose to pay attention to the poor relative of a disciple.
1:32 – Jesus works late into the night. Gives up his time for ministry.
1:35 – Then Jesus makes time for himself in prayer! Early, before dawn.
2:13 – Jesus calls a simple, poor man to be his disciple, in a simple way.
2:15 – Jesus calls tax collectors and sinners as followers. (Some tax collectors very rich.)
2:19 – Jesus is challenged: “Your disciples do not fast?” Rejoicing in God, as at a wedding.
2:25 – Disciples very hungry, so they ate on the Sabbath. Broke with custom to restore the body.
3:6 – Jesus misunderstood, despised, feared! Social poverty.
3:7 – Experienced the poverty of fear – had to retreat from threats.
3:33 – Experienced the poverty of no blood family – only companions in mission.
4:1 – No personal space! This happened a lot to Jesus.
5:16 – Poverty of rejection.
6:3 – Poverty of lack of reputation, stigma, for being poor and lower class. Poverty of being rejected by his own people.
6:8 – Jesus sent the disciples out poor, to rely only on God. (Also the goal of a Jesuit pilgrimage)
6:31 – Skipping meals to serve!
6:38 – Loaves and fishes – Jesus gave out of his own poverty. A message to the disciples to give what you have. You’ll never have “more than enough” to give away. Yet it was enough. All were satisfied.
6:52 – Jesus was doubted by his own friends – was also alone and sad at John’s death.
7:5 – Jesus and his disciples were considered unclean – they got dirty!
7:17 – Jesus had a home to go to!
7:21 – Jesus loses his temper – gets upset! Not in control.
7:24 – Jesus knew only one culture and context – said something hurtful to the Syrophoenician woman because of this, and learned from her.
9:28 – Jesus’ disciples are poor, not being able to do what Jesus can do. Not meeting their own expectations, not able to replicate a great deed done once. Not able to heal or fix.
9:36 – Jesus instructs his disciples to be like a child. Another take on poverty, simplicity, vulnerability.
9:41 – Humble gratitude, not possessive of spiritual gifts.
10:13 – Again, the option for children.
10:21 – “Go sell all you have, give to the poor, and follow me.” Gets serious about the kingdom of God.
10:27 – Yet “For God, all things are possible” – the rich may enter the kingdom of heaven
10:29 – Poverty as a means for salvation – give up all you have and you will be rewarded.
10:35 – Jesus puts up with his disciples’ B.S. They are totally missing the point and he takes their question seriously, finds the teaching moment.
10:43 – We cannot lord it over others. “Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant.”
11:3 – Riding a donkey – but gives it back as soon as he is done.
11:25 – When you pray, be poor and humble before God.
12:43 – Poverty is relative – the widow gives from her poverty.
13:9 – Jesus’ loved ones also suffer – poverty of not being able to prevent their suffering at his mission.
14:6 – Jesus accepts and appreciates the woman disciple at Bethany who shows him lavish love. “The poor you will always have with you, but not me.”
14:15 – Gets the upper room for the last supper with all of the disciples, probably men, women, and children. Seems fancy!
14:22 – Jesus eating a feast with all of his friends.
14:30 – Poverty of being denied.
14:37 – Poverty of being abandoned, let down.
These are all illustrations of Jesus’ poverty in the context of his “normal” ministry and life. In the Passion, Jesus experienced a level of poverty that allows him to feel with all people who suffer intensely. We don’t aspire to experience this, since God wishes this on no one, but we can accompany Jesus through this poverty, and when we accompany others who suffer like this, or find ourselves suffering like this, we can remember that in this level of suffering, we do see Christ on the cross. And that Jesus suffers with this person, or with us.
15:2 – Jesus in a Catch-22 with enemies. Innocent of charges but nothing he can say will save him. Cannot have the “last word.”
15:14 – Poverty of unpopularity, hostility.
15:17 – Poverty of being mocked and abused, tortured, stripped of dignity.
15:21 – Poverty of weakness, infirmity.
15:23 – Does not accept pain-killer / numbing agent.
15:29 – Mocked even as he is dying. Receives the cynicism and derision rather than compassion.
15:34 – Feels completely abandoned by God.