Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, for Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit, for Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven

By The Very Reverend Samuel G. Candler
Dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta Georgia
12 September 2001

On September 11, 2001, the landscape of our world was changed, changed by the searing slashes of violence and tragedy. Of four hijacked airliners, two were crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center, a center of enormous national and global commerce. A third airliner was crashed into the Pentagon, the nerve center of the United States military; a fourth airliner crashed in Pennsylvania. The result of this terrorism was incredible physical destruction and an unspeakable number of innocent deaths.

The actual physical landscape of our country has changed; the New York city skyline will never be the same again. The emotional landscape of our lives has also changed; our vulnerability has been violently exposed. The political landscape of our world, has also changed; we are poised between shock and outrage. Evil has struck, and we have suffered. The landscape has changed. The events of September 11 will thus be remembered with the same shock and tragedy as the memories of Pearl Harbor. These are life-changing and landscape-changing events. They have horrified us, and they will continue to disturb us for years to come.

But I submit that another landscape is also changing. Our spiritual landscape has also changed. The kingdom of heaven itself was moved on September 11, and it was enlarged. First, let it be said that God is the first to weep at the incidents of human violence and evil. God is moved to pain and suffering at these events. We Christians believe that, in Jesus Christ, God has suffered before, and God will suffer again. God is moved to a compassion and love that will yet change, and redeem, the world. But let others know that our God is the same God of peace-seeking faithful people across the world.

Secondly, the kingdom of heaven is changed by the introduction of innocent souls into its sacred space and time. Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The poor in spirit, the innocent and the hard-working, entered suddenly and tragically into this kingdom on September 11. But the kingdom is stronger for it. That communion of saints was with us in churches, synagogues, and mosques across the country on September 11. Even as we gathered quickly and spontaneously for prayer, those saints filled the empty seats in the pews beside us.

Thirdly, the kingdom of heaven is made stronger in us, in us who remain as faithful and faith-seeking saints in the world today. We are poor in spirit as we gather together to cry, to suffer, to ask questions, to mourn, to pray, and to be silent together. In all those places, God is present in a more powerful way since September 11. Where there is suffering, there is God; where there are tears, there is God; where there is prayer, there is God; where there is silence, there is God.

"Blessed are those who mourn, Blessed are the peacemakers," Jesus continued in the Sermon on the Mount. Blessed are we remain together to mourn, to hope, and to work together now for the kingdom of heaven in this world. We have only begun an enormous stage of soul-searching and moral decision-making. Let us hold on to one another, in deep love and respect, during this stage. Where we hold on to one another, there also is God. Where we respect and love one another, there also is God. May God bless us who are poor in spirit, who mourn, and who work for peace.

The Very Reverend Samuel G. Candler
Dean of the Cathedral of St. Philip
Atlanta, Georgia


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