Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. – Matthew 5:5
St. Ambrose said, “When I have learned contentment in poverty, the next lesson is to govern my heart and temper. For what good is it to me to be without worldly things, unless I have besides a meek spirit? It suitable follows therefore, Blessed are the meek.” The Beatitudes have a certain order. From the first beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” we learn humility and to treasure heavenly riches, rather than earthly. Then, we must learn to be meek, which is to govern our tempers, to be gentle, or compassionate, with our neighbor, and to suffer wrongs patiently.
St. Ambrose also said, “Soften therefore your temper that you be not angry, at least that you be angry and sin not. It is a noble thing to govern passion by reason.” Once we’ve learned to value grace over worldly goods, then we must learn to govern our emotions through reason. Pride causes us to insist on our own way, and to become angry when things don’t go our way, but that isn’t reasonable. Instead of insisting on our own way, we should learn to insist on God’s way.
The Gospel of Matthew applies a passage from the Prophet Isaiah to Jesus, “He will not contend or cry out, nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, a smoldering wick he will not quench, until he brings justice to victory” (Mt 12:19-20). A bruised reed, a reed that’s already been bent, is easy to break and a candle that’s just smoldering, not on fire, is easy to put it if you’re not being careful. This is a description of someone who is careful, or gentle, with the people he interacts with. He is capable of being forceful, such as when He cleanses the Temple, but he is often gentle with wounded souls. Think of how He speaks with the woman at the well, drawing her to faith in Him, or how He speaks to the woman caught in adultery, “Has no one condemned you?... Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more” (Jn 8:10-11). Think about how Jesus saw that Zacchaeus wanted to see Him so much that He climbed a tree to get a better view, and invited Him to conversion, saying, “Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house” (Lk 19:5). Meekness helps us to show gentleness and compassion to one another.
St. Augustine said, “The meek are they who resist not wrongs, and give way to evil; but overcome evil of good.” We normally want to respond to insults with insults, and to violence with violence. Sometimes, we need to use force to defend ourselves or others from harm, but we should only use the amount of force required to end the threat. However, we should never wish harm upon another person or desire to get revenge. Meekness allows us to respond to insults and injuries with charity and patience.
The Lord promises that the meek “shall inherit the earth.” St. John Chrysostom says, “Because it is commonly supposed that he who is meek loses all that he possesses, Christ here gives a contrary promise, that he who is not forward shall possess his own in security, but that he of a contrary disposition many times loses his soul and his paternal inheritance.” For those whose bottom line is the bottom line, they will ultimately lose everything that they seem to have, because you can’t take anything with you when you go. As Job says, “Naked I came forth from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I go back again” (Job 1:21). On the other hand, the meek will inherit heaven, and, in the resurrection of the dead, they will receive the world as well, for the Lord said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal” (Mt 6:19-20).
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.