September 20, 2012
Feast of the 103 Korean Martyrs – a great day to write about meekness, for their martyrdom fed the Church on the Korean peninsula and still does.
The meek shall inherit the earth (Ps. 37:11, Mt. 5:5). The Fearsome Monsignor, pastor of the parish we lived in, required that we students memorize the eight beatitudes. I remember the ease of memorizing but the frustration of not understanding the meaning. Even at 11, I just knew that there was a lot of meaning behind the words, but didn’t know how to plumb it. In those days we laity didn’t have the resources available today to enrich our spiritual lives.
Meekness is so important it’s mentioned many times in the Bible, and this particular phrase twice. Being a child with a ferocious temper, I really should have delved deeper into the meaning when I was younger. Now, after having spent a lifetime working at controlling my temper, I can see clearly that Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene, O.C.D. with his beautiful meditations from Divine Intimacy shows the way for the hot-tempered person seeking closeness to God.
God does not let Himself be found nor does He show Himself in the midst of disturbance and excitement, but only in interior peace and calm. When we are disturbed, even slightly, by impulses of anger, we are unable to perceive the delicate impulses of grace or to hear the gentle whisper of divine inspirations; the noise of our unbridled passions prevents us from listening to our interior Master, and losing our guide, we no longer act according to God’s good pleasure, but allow ourselves to be carried away by the whims of our own impulsiveness, which will always cause us to commit faults….
…If we wish our life to remain always under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, our actions to be always directed by grace and conformed to God’s will, we should never permit ourselves to yield to the impulses of anger, not even under the pretext of good.
Rather, in these moments we should use our energy to suspend every judgment and every act, striving to reestablish in our heart the peace necessary to judge things in the light of God.
Our Lord teaches His ways to the meek, because only one who has silenced all resentments and feelings of anger is ready to be instructed by God, to listen to His voice and to follow it.
Now that I’m older and have studied, I know why God says that the meek shall inherit the earth. Of course, the word “earth” refers to the land of milk and honey, Canaan, and by extension, heaven. We aren’t getting there if we don’t put a bridle on our emotions and redirect our attention to the good of others rather than focusing on our wants. And let’s face it, we have a lot more wants than we have needs. I am speaking here not so much of material wants but rather desires to be esteemed and be the center of adulation.
I think also that we must be very wary of our real motivations when we are tempted to “give somebody a piece of our mind”, or to self-righteously smack them down. In these cases we’ve, no doubt, stepped into a huge, steaming pile of rash judgment that we are going to have quite a hard time washing off.
Is it my job to correct my neighbor when he angers me? Sometimes; sometimes not. In the footsteps of St. Therese of Lisieux, practicing the virtue I think my neighbor lacks and setting a good example may be the wisest correction. That means holding my tongue, not stomping around in anger, and listening for God’s word in my heart. Taking a deep breath helps, too, as long as we don’t let it out in a “put upon” sigh.
If we can structure quiet time with the Lord each day, lay all our burdens at His feet, and ask for the virtue of meekness, He will help us. As we acquire good habits, they gradually force out the bad ones. Our goal to imitate Christ in charity is to become “slow to anger and of great kindness” (Ps. 145:8). For sure then we will inherit the earth.
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