Sister Doreen’s Reflections
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.
O the magnitude of meekness!
Just a reminder: Blessed, what does Jesus intend by using this paradoxical word? In trying to understand the focus of the beatitudes I think that it is important to consider the meaning and the intent of this first word which we translate ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’.
- In Greek the first word is MAKAROI – which helps us understand people enjoying a deep inner joy, a lasting spiritual experience, like the inner joy that continues to grow deeper as life experience grows. It is an experience of life at its best and a call to do something about it! For example, perhaps a more real translation would be: get up, go ahead, and do something. Move, you who are hungry and thirsty for justice. For you shall be satisfied. Get up, go ahead, and move. Take action, you peacemakers, for you shall be called children of God.
As I said, most of us don’t know what to do with the beatitudes, but they sound like a beautiful and familiar poem, or a list that makes us feel guilty because we are not good enough, meek enough. Upon pondering the beatitudes, I really think that Jesus is saying: “If you feel you are living in a world where you don’t fit in, start creating a new, more loving world. God and the kingdom of heaven are doing it with you. Act like you belong to God’s kingdom. Do something beautiful with God.”
Now to this beatitude – begun under the banner of Christopher Smart’s comment: “O the magnitude of meekness”. The Greek word for meek is ‘praus’ and it is used to describe a wild animal who had been tamed and made gentle. I like this thought for it brings a very positive understanding of myself – there is much in my temperament and my personality that is in constant need of being made gentle!
We turn away from considering meekness because we have by and large been made to think of it as weakness. However, there is indeed a magnitude to meekness, and a strong challenge. Meekness and humbleness, the Hebrew word for meekness is “anaw” – someone in relationship with God who knows their need of God, who has the ability to be content, because they know God’s voice is in their hearts. Meekness is a call to make choices in following God’s call whatever the risks. It has nothing to do with cowardice but with showing patience and humility, with gentleness. Jesus again and again in the gospels showed what meekness was a strong gift about the nature of love and what it means to serve rather than rule, to care rather than to control.
Some thoughts come to mind when I ponder the blessed of meekness and my own hearts desire:
- To be gentle rather than severe
- To be nonviolent rather than violent
- To be neither too hasty nor too slow tempered
- To be able to bear reproaches and slights without being bent on revenge
- To be free of bitterness and belligerence
- To possess tranquility
- To be steadfast or faithful of spirit
There is something about meekness, humbleness, powerlessness that breaks open the heart, that offers us the gift of vulnerability when we realize that there are forces and powers so much greater than ourselves and that these welcome and support us.
Robert Morris in his book “Meek Like Moses” wrote: “While boasting may be the opposite of humility, true humility is not the result of self-depreciation. It is, rather, the fruit of a keen-eyed ability to see oneself realistically, as a flawed and gifted creature like all other human beings.” It highlights the truth that what makes a diamond is the crack, the flaw at its heart. Meek like Moses, Moses and we are all diamonds … we are called to do the hard work of accepting being both flawed and gifted.
Blessed are the meek, the humble – for they are stretched by humility, supported by openness, generosity and compassion … I believe that it is this that helps us to really understand the Apostle Paul’s statement in Philippians (4:13) .. “I can do all things through the one who strengthens me” – indeed the meek inherit the earth!
Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. If we are to inherit the earth, I believe our great task is to learn to recognize, to name, to liberate things and people to be themselves instead of constantly trying to organize things and people in order to make something for ourselves. And we are to do this for each other. Rather than trying to fit and fix, we are to see each other and all things in their own uniqueness – this is the magnitude of the call of meekness! We are not to rush out and do something but in humble companionship with God, to be, to speak so that others are free to be themselves, so that they can inherit the earth.
If the meek, the helpless, the humble are the ones who will inherit the earth, this is perhaps because the earth, God’s earth, the real earth, can be had on no other terms. It is a gift, an inheritance. Meekness, the magnitude of meekness acknowledges this. St Therese of Lisieux wrote: “I scatter to right and to left the good seed God puts into my little hand for my little birds. What happens then is its own business. I do not concern myself with that at all … The good God says to me, “Give, give, always give, without bothering yourself at all about the results.”
Meekness, humbleness, gentleness and patience leads us to:
- Love rather than achievement, to recognize who we are can change our perspective and priorities.
- Leads us to honour others. I am reminded again of the Shaker Song “Simple Gifts” and the line “when true simplicity is gained, to bow and to bend we will not be ashamed.” It is like acknowledging that we see the image of God in each other as we travel this incredible journey through life together.
- Leads us to live without judgment and to accept the help offered around us and it leads to an honest assessment of ourselves and of others – of our littleness and our greatness. It grounds us in understanding who we really are, the whole truth, both positive and negative.
If we are to be the meek in this world, we are to be the ones who change the directions that legitimize, by our silence, the continued divisions amongst peoples, who show that everyone is made in the image of God and that stewardship of resources means that everyone is to enjoy them – this is the magnitude of this beatitude.
In the May 2022 Church newspaper “Crosstalk” (Diocese of Ottawa) there was a Pledge of Transformation that I thought might be part of our reflection on this beatitude:
For love, which heals wounds, we will stand.
For generosity, which opens space for hope, we will stand.
For nurturing, which builds a culture of peace, we will stand.
For compassion, which seeks the best for all, we will stand.
For respect, which enables us to love with differences, we will stand.
For humility, which allows healthy relationships with others, we will stand.
Together, for hope, we will stand.
There is something about meekness, in humility, that helps us to understand that we are a child of God born to make manifest the glory of God – and in doing so, we and those around us, inherit the earth. There is about the blessedness of meekness an openness to receiving all that God has promised. It is a way of seeing the world that sweeps away all certificates of ownership, so that what remains is important, our honesty, our decency, our capacity to love, our faith, each other.