As a thirteen year old eighth grader and a member of Boy Scout troop 1405, I studied vigorously for and received the Ad Altare Dei Award for Catholic scouts. In the process I had to obtain endorsements that I was receiving religious instruction, was faithful to my prayers, frequented the Sacraments and was leading an exemplary life. I remember it well, sitting in the living room of the home of the founding pastor of St. Germaine’s parish, Fr. LaSalle Link. He was a short, well-rounded man with a friendly smile, who I generally felt comfortable around. I came to know him personally because my parents were so involved in parish activities. Still, as he quizzed me on some of the materials, I stumbled a few times due to my anxiety and intense desire to do well. It was in studying for this test that I first became acquainted with what the Bible calls the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount.
Though the sermon covers all of chapters 5 through 7 in the Gospel of Matthew, the part most people are familiar with, and which I had to commit to memory was Matt 5:3-12: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
Committing to memory though is not the same as understanding. And until this past Saturday morning, I can’t say that I understood God’s promise that the meek shall inherit the earth. It sounded good! But what did it mean? But as often happens at Saturday morning men’s prayer, I had one of those “Road to Emmaus” moments when, as the two travelers who shared a meal with their Lord, unaware initially of who they were with, upon discovery exclaimed: “When He talked to us on the road, it felt like a fire burning in us. How exciting it was when He explained to us the true meaning of the Scriptures!”
Meekness is Attractive
In my case, the fire burned within me as several men shared about the importance of showing true unadulterated meekness and God’s love when reaching out to other people for any reason, whether it be to share the Good News or just to give an encouraging word or an offer to help. Only a genuinely meek spirit will be listened to and received.
The masses are looking for a genuinely meek person to speak into their lives and become a part of it. They’re tired of hearing about how bad their behavior is. They already know they have “bad” behavior. They’re tired of people who preach goodness and love, yet who are offended and complain about every little word spoken against them or every little problem in the world or their own lives. They’re tired of Christians who pray that God will change the lives of the people around them, so their own selfish lives can be more comfortable. They’re tired of people who talk down to them in “goody-goody” words or scriptures that they don’t understand.
As many of my friends at men’s prayer expounded on these matters I sensed the Spirit of God saying to me, the people of the world will be naturally drawn by God to the genuinely meek person – they will “inherit the earth;” and the meek will see many come into the Kingdom through the consistency of their words and actions. As my pastor so often reminds us, a leader is truly only a leader if he or she has someone following. Otherwise he’s just taking a walk. A meek spirit attracts others. If unbelievers are not attracted to you, then perhaps you have fallen short in this area.
Meekness Weeps for Others
We human beings are an unusual lot. We weep for any number of different reasons. Crying is almost always an outward expression of what’s going on in our hearts – and that can be either good or not so good. Sometimes we weep when we’re very happy and other times we weep when we’re grieving or in physical or emotional pain. Sometimes we weep when others offend us and other times we weep on behalf of others who are themselves hurting.
When Jesus informed his disciples that His friend Lazarus had died, He made what probably some interpreted as a very harsh statement: “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” Jesus was not upset by Lazarus’ death, because He knew exactly what He intended to do, namely raise Him from the dead. By the time they reached Lazarus’ grave, the man had already been dead for four days. Jesus hinted to Lazarus’ sister Martha what He intended to do, but she misunderstood him too: “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” She clearly believed Jesus with regard to eternity, but not that He could raise her brother from the dead. Still, she went to get her sister Mary to talk to Jesus. And …when Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled…. Jesus wept.
Why did Jesus weep? The people thought He was weeping for Lazarus. In reality, He wept for all the unbelief that surrounded Him that day. Most of us, if we had the ability to accomplish something remarkable, but no one believed us, we would be offended. We’d likely run to our bedroom and cry about it. That’s selfish weeping. But Jesus wept for the people’s ignorance and hardness of heart. On another occasion Jesus wept for the city of Jerusalem, or rather the citizens of the city that was the center of Israel’s worship of God. “… because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
In like manner, the Apostle Paul wept over the Jew’s blindness and rejection of the truth. He cried out that God would not hold it against these people who had pursued him and tried many times to kill him – who on more than one occasion beat him and stoned him and left him for dead. 2 Corinthians 12:10 explains how truly meek Paul was: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”
Unbelievers as well as believers sought out Jesus for help. Likewise many Gentiles saw that same nature in Paul, and came to him for prayer and guidance. Both lived the Sermon on the Mount command and accompanying promise: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. These days it’s rare that people of the world “seek out” Christians for anything. This should be a clue that we are coming up short in this area.
Meekness and Love go hand-in-hand
I believe you could easily and accurately substitute the word meekness nearly every time you use the word love. Just try it – and apply it to your own life.
- Love (and meekness) does not fear anyone
- Love (and meekness) forgives all
- Love (and meekness) is not condescending
- Love (and meekness) does not stamp its foot and demand its way
- Love (and meekness) cries in private – for the one who misunderstands your intentions
- Love (and meekness) refuses to be offended by anyone who attacks you personally or harms you
- Love (and meekness) does not pray that God change another’s heart or feelings toward you – but that God not hold their words and actions against them.