The Second Third, Week 34: Blessed Are the Meek

Yesterday morning, Jodi and I sat around her mother’s kitchen table with Grandma Pam, her sister, and her brother-in-law, and discussed politics, religion, and parenting. I have heard over the years that these topics are taboo to discuss in mixed company, especially with one’s in-laws, and Jodi’s brother-in-law (by his own admission) likes to stir the pot now and again. But all’s well that ends well, and when they left for home mid-morning, there were still hugs all around.

Part of the reason that it went so well may be the words of Fr. Mark’s homily on Sunday. Fr. Mark is the pastor at Our Lady of the Black Hills Catholic Church in Piedmont, S.D. He is not a big man, but his enthusiasm for his vocation, his joy in the Mass, and his genuine love of the Eucharist erupt in a loud voice that resonates to the wooden rafters of the sanctuary. He tends to gain, and keep, your attention.

On Sunday, he preached on the gospel of Matthew, chapter 11, 25-30:

At that time Jesus said in reply, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him. Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

“Meek and humble of heart” — this from a man who would be put to death for proclaiming that he is God’s only son and the messiah, who toppled tables in the temple and drove the traders from “his father’s house” with an improvised whip of cords, who stood before the authorities unafraid and walked willingly to his doom. This is not the image of a meek man by today’s definition of the word, and in fact, the definition of meekness was the root of our discussion yesterday. Fr. Mark gave two: “not easily provoked” and “strength under control.” Afterward, Jodi’s brother-in-law said that those seemed to be reasonable definitions that worked well for the homily, but were not necessarily in keeping with the commonly accepted definition of weak, cowardly, or passive.

I’ll discuss “strength under control” in a separate post; for the purpose of this post (and the discussions at Grandma’s house), “not easily provoked” is the key. Webster’s online dictionary gives three definitions, and the first and third line up well with Father’s explanation and with Christ:

  1. Enduring injury with patience and without resentment : MILD
  2. Deficient in spirit and courage : SUBMISSIVE
  3. Not violent or strong : MODERATE

Many people do not wish to be seen as activists or evangelists, and it can be difficult to discuss one’s faith and convictions with people who have different viewpoints. It takes a deep inner strength to endeavor quietly to do right and to endure wrongs patiently, without physical or verbal violence, out of loyalty to a higher calling or greater good. The person who can do this possesses a deep inner strength and is decidedly not deficient in spirit or courage.

It is in this respect that I have re-titled and re-focused my blog this year, and that I hope, in my Second Third, to cultivate meekness in my own life, in order to facilitate civil discussions about the things that really matter with people different than myself.

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