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Meekness

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

It is indispensable to restrain our anger and to practice meekness. So too it is humility of heart that will make us gentle in our dealings with others. Only God can see the human heart. We can only see the exterior of other people. And they can only see us externally. Gentleness is love made manifest. Gentleness is charity shown. Gentleness is sincere love shown by the kindness that we manifest. There is such a thing as practicing charity all right by making the person realize that he or she is making an imposition on our “charity.” We can practice charity and actually make the person wither, over the way we practice what we condescendingly call charity. I believe one of the hardest lessons to learn in life is the fact that whenever we practice charity the person toward whom we show our love, hear it, is our benefactor. Do you hear it? Giving us the opportunity of proving and showing our love for God by practicing charity toward those whom God puts into our lives for this one fundamental purpose that by loving them we might prove to God that we love Him. All of these are powerful motives for not only being charitable internally but showing our love in kindness, gentleness, externally. And let me tell you what people want from us is not only our charity in meeting their needs but the manifestation of our charity in the kindness and gentleness we show them.

Before we go on I am willing to point something out that we are liable to miss because of the words misunderstanding of what gentleness and what meekness mean. I really believe for many people meekness is weakness and gentleness is cowardice. It is not too many people, surely not those who don’t share our faith, who realize that in order to be meek and gentle we must be strong. You won’t expect what I am going to say next. We are indeed to be meek and gentle, restrain our anger, show kindness, but remember it is not charity and it is not following the gentle Christ if we indiscriminately show meekness and kindness. Remember Jesus couldn’t have been more gentle or meek when He spoke to the scribes and Pharisees. Remember what He told them? Remember the way He drove the money changers out of the temple? Remember? In other words there is such a thing as righteous indignation and sinless anger. I mean it. Parents who have authority over their children it would be sheer folly on their parts to not reprove or reprimand and rebuke. Recall the occasion when Christ told Simon you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church. Go back to the Gospel of St. Matthew. Read on the next few verses. The Savior foretold His passion the man who was just told he would be the rock on whom Christ would build His church told Jesus, Lord don’t do it. Don’t go to Jerusalem and have those Pharisees get hold of you. Do you know what Jesus told Peter? The man whom He had just called the rock, He called him, Satan. This is the gentle Jesus. There are some devastating crimes being committed in the world today. Crimes against God and against man in the degree to which we are in authority, have a right to do so and a corresponding responsibility we are indeed to be meek and gentle, but we are not to be afraid, to correct, and rebuke and in this too we are following Jesus Christ.

Before we go on to the promise I would like to just for a moment pull out what I consider the key to the mystery of meekness and gentleness. How can we remain unmoved when we see so much that is wrong in the world especially when the wrong touches us? The key is to recognize that sin is also part of the providence of God. So that in practicing meekness and gentleness we imitate God himself in human form, Jesus Christ who couldn’t have been more meek and gentle with sinners always assuming they recognized their misdeed and were willing to repent. If God in human form practiced meekness and gentleness who are we to act otherwise.

Now the marvelous promise of the Savior. No matter what translation we use it comes out the same. Blessed or happy are the meek or the gentle for they shall possess the earth or the earth will be their heritage. Now there was a passage in the Old Testament to be exact, Psalm 36:11 which reads as follows. “The meek shall inherit the land and shall delight in the abundance of peace.” Consequently what Christ told us in the second beatitude is the reaffirmation of the Old Testament. But the Savior went far beyond the Old Covenant. Christ’s promise was far more than say possessing well, a pot of ground, or what nobody really wants the whole earth, this planet, for his possession. What did Jesus promise? He promises the meek and gentle extraordinary power over the hearts of others. In other words the meek and gentle will be able to influence other people for good in a way that no one but the person who is meek and gentle can hope for. I can speak as a priest in dealing now for thirty-eight years in my priesthood with so many souls, on a few occasions when I fail to practice this meekness and gentleness that my master taught me I have always been terribly sorry. In teaching priests I tell them you’ll have power from on high to melt the hardest hearts if you deal with others gently, kindly and meekly. How can we expect to influence others provided we practice meekness and gentleness? We will be able to have Christ’s teaching accepted by those who we are trying to influence. How well I know the teaching of Christ is not easy for the proud human mind to accept. This teaching will be accepted on the condition that the one who teaches himself or herself practices meekness and humility of heart. All of us in greater or less measure want to influence people who are somehow estranged from God. There are sinners, sinners in this world who need to return to the God from whom they have strayed. Very well. How can that be done? It can be done only by other people entering their lives and practicing toward these sinners, if need be heroic meekness and gentleness. I’m saying more than your ears seem to indicate. Who are the ones with whom we are to be especially meek and gentle? Needless to say they are the people who are most difficult or trying in our own lives. Especially when the pain and maybe agony they cause us is sinful on their part yet what an adversative, yet, provided I am gentle, meek, in a word patient in dealing with such people, God will use my meekness, my patience to convert that sinner.

We go on. The world in which we are living is a world of unbelief. How can we convince unbelievers even that there is a God let alone that this God became man and out of love for us suffered and died on the cross. How do you make believers out of unbelievers? Well let me tell you the most important mystery of the faith that we are to teach others to accept is the fact that God became man in the person of Jesus Christ, that He lived, died and rose from the dead. Very well. How will we get people to believe what we are telling them. And speaking to you parents, how well I know, having no physical offspring of my own, how well I know, how many parents tell me Father you have no idea how hard it is to raise your children today and keep them in the faith, which I believe when they find so much unbelief around them. I think the most traumatic experience that I have had was when a mother and father told me the seventh child in their family the seventh son and daughter had given up the practice of their faith. How, how to get unbelievers to accept the faith. How to keep believers remaining faithful to the faith? A thousand recommendations. But listen it is by the practice of meekness and gentleness in spite of the worst kind of provocation we may experience even as remember the early church in the first century the followers of Christ were called Christians and the pagan world of Mediterranean Rome was converted to Jesus Christ because the pagans saw Christians, hear it loving one another. In other words if we want to preserve the faith and share the faith we must show the faith by the practice of extraordinary meekness and gentleness in imitation of Jesus Christ.

Prayer

Lord Jesus you gave us only one lesson to learn from you, you told us learn of me for I am meek and gentle of heart. Dear Savior help us to be like you on earth so we might be with you in heaven which is reserved only for those who have been meek, gentle and humble of heart. Amen.

Copyright © 1998 Inter Mirifica






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