Are The Meek Really Blessed?
One of my favorite moments in Monty Python's classic Life Of Brian, a not-so-subtle critique of organized religion, is when two of the main characters in the film stumble upon Jesus delivering the Sermon on the Mount.
Unfortunately, they are so far behind the crowd that they can't hear what Jesus is saying, so they keep getting it wrong. Here's one of those exchanges from the script after Jesus declares, "Blessed are the meek."
MAN #2: You hear that? Blessed are the Greek.
GREGORY: The Greek?
MAN #2: Mmm. Well, apparently, he's going to inherit the earth.
GREGORY: Did anyone catch his name?
MRS. BIG NOSE: Oh, it's the meek! Blessed are the meek! Oh, that's nice, isn't it? I'm glad they're getting something, 'cause they have a hell of a time.
That scene cracks me up every single time I see it. To begin, it's gently poking at how we tend to romanticize the moments when Jesus taught the multitudes, and then it also hits pretty hard on the notion of meekness being considered a strength in our culture.
The fact is that Jesus' declaration that those who are meek should consider themselves blessed and happy wouldn't have made a lot of sense to the people who heard it firsthand, either.
Meekness is not a value many of us celebrate in ourselves or others. We tend to value power, influence, and authority. We want to be assertive and capable of getting our way.
Our culture values anger and hostility over meekness because anger and hostility are the only things that get things done. "If you aren't angry, you aren't paying attention" is a phrase I've heard more than once over the past few years.
And yet, meekness is one of the first things that Jesus affirms at the beginning of his most famous sermon.
I recently read something fascinating from Fr. Thomas Keating about the difference between meekness and the perceived power of anger:
Meekness is freedom from the energy of hostility, hatred, or outbursts of anger. Anger is necessary for human health and growth. But it needs to be transmuted into a growing capacity to persevere in the pursuit of the difficult good, especially the immense goods of the spiritual journey and of the imitation of Christ.
What Jesus was trying to teach when he declared that blessed happiness came from practicing meekness is that when you are full of anger, hostility, and hatred, it's like being imprisoned.
Meekness is the ability to be at peace with yourself and others and to act peaceably and lovingly in the world. It's the ability to be unassuming, self-satisfied (in a good way), balanced, and content.
To be meek isn't a negative character trait when it's practiced in the way Jesus himself practiced it.
Like Jesus, we find blessed happiness when we put the needs of others ahead of our own. We find blessed happiness when we work patiently for the common good. We find blessed happiness when we surrender our outcomes to God.
May you find ways to practice meekness in your own life. Give of yourself for the sake of the world and the Kingdom of God. May it be so. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.
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