‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth’
Hands up all Lord of the Rings fans!! I recently finished reading the trilogy for the first time (yes, sadly it has taken me this long!) One word suffices: WOW. If you are seeking an epic tale that will edify you and fire your relationship with God, this trilogy overflows with the true, the good and the beautiful.
All of you who have read it will be well familiar with Frodo who – for those who don’t know – reluctantly volunteers for an incredibly momentous task: to travel across perilous lands to bring an evil ring to Mount Doom where it can be destroyed forever. Frodo – along with Sam, Merry and Pippin – seem unlikely heroes if taken on external appearance alone. They are hobbits without the great physical stature, prowess, and prestige of other characters in the story. Yet, in the words of the author, J.R Tolkien, “It is not the strength of the body that counts, but the strength of the spirit.” These little hobbits have great hearts and indomitable spirits. Moreover, only Frodo possesses the purity of heart needed to bear the ring without being corrupted by it. These hobbits, in fact, have the virtue of meekness in abundance. They are small in stature; yet mighty in spirit.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt 5:5). This was the third Beatitude proclaimed by Jesus, rich in both beauty and significance but so easily misunderstood. It tends, for instance, to be confused with weakness and timidity – being a pushover, in essence, and lacking in the moral courage necessary to make a stand for truth and justice. Yet, such unfortunate qualities do not characterise a Christian who is truly fired with love of God: ‘for God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control’ (2 Tim 1:7). Jesus is also described in Scripture as the model of meekness yet there was nothing timid or weak about Him. Think how He patiently endured a harrowing trial and Roman crucifixion engineered and callously performed by those He had created – purely out of love for us: ‘When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly’ (1 Pet 2:23). Did Jesus cry out for vengeance on His torturers? Did He inwardly seethe at those who insulted Him wrongly? No. He asked His Father to FORGIVE them instead: “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34). Meekness is as far from weakness as you can possibly get: It signifies patience in adversity, gentleness, humility, deep trust in God regardless of circumstances, the ability to restrain and re-channel anger. In essence, meekness is tremendous interior strength.
It must have been quite a shock for Jesus’ audience to hear this. All of Israel lived under the oppression of Rome, who governed with brutal force and military might – and those listening to Jesus might well have been inclined to associate external power and strength with blessedness instead. Some of the crowd might even have believed very firmly that only a brilliant display of military might could possibly overcome the Romans. God had promised them their own land; Surely this was the only way this could be achieved? Yet, Jesus here says no; Rather, it is the MEEK who will inherit the land. Strength of body is not what counts; strength of spirit is. Moreover, we do not conquer; we INHERIT.
Our inheritance, in fact, is the life of heaven, is to be ‘partakers in the divine nature’ (2 Pet 1:4). Our greatness lies not in what we have, in our physical ability or strength, in the societal status or prestige we hold – but in our HEARTS, which at the moment of our Baptism were flooded with divine light and became temples of the Holy Spirit. The power of the entire Trinity resides within us; even the mighty force of all the world’s oceans combined doesn’t even come close to matching it! One day this inheritance will come into full fruition in heaven where we will share eternally in the wonder and beauty of God’s inner life. One day there will be a ‘new heavens and a new earth’ for all God’s children to enjoy (Rev 21:1).
Pope Francis once gave a reflection on meekness which emphasised the great gift of this inheritance, and how imperative it is that we do not waste it. The meek don’t waste time convincing the world that they are worthy of admiration and honour due to their physical strength or worldly achievements; or in attaining glory for themselves alone. Instead, they defend the greatest gift of all with every fibre of their being: the gift of divine life in their soul, the promise of God in their hearts. The only honour the meek truly care about is God’s. Pope Francis spoke these beautiful lines about those who are meek: ‘He defends his peace, he defends his relationship with God, he defends his gifts – God’s gifts – guarding mercy, fraternity, trust, hope. Because the meek are merciful, fraternal, trusting and hopeful people.’
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Amen to that.
By Your grace, may we become truly meek,
So that focusing all our energy into growing strong in spirit,
Rather than in being strong and powerful in the eyes of the world,
We may seek and defend Your honour and glory alone
Through Christ Jesus our Lord,