I have always found Matthew’s passage concerning the Beatitudes to be difficult. Perhaps one reason is that I have heard it so many times and rarely heard it preached about with erudition and insight (One exception can be found here).
Fortunately I recently found a book by former Crystal Cathedral pastor Robert Schuller dealing with the Beatitudes entitled The Be Happy Attitudes. He offers simple, but very deep and profound, reflections on each of the beatitudes of Christ. Let’s focus on one: “Blessed are the meek, they will inherit the land.”
Schuller comments that happiness seems elusive. He asks,
How often have you thought: “If only I had that car . . . then I’d be satisfied! If only I could find someone truly to love me . . . then I’d be happy! If only I wasn’t under so much financial stress . . . then I’d be content! If only . . . If only . . . The news I have for you today is: All the “If only’s” in the world—even if they all came true—still could not guarantee your happiness! As we all have discovered at one time or another, cars, houses, jewelry, and other material gains don’t bring happiness for long. After the immediate rush of joy at receiving something we have longed for, we are hit with the unique problems that every gain brings.
In the United States, the idea is that the rough and tough, hard charging go-getter gets ahead. And then Christ says, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” If Jesus had said, “Blessed are the meek, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”—that we could understand. But the meek will get all of the real estate on the globe? That doesn’t seem to make sense. Unless you look at the original etymology of the word “meek.” Schuller then uses a mnemonic to help describe the original Greek meaning of the word:
“Blessed are the:
- E—Emotionally stable
Who is stronger – the young man who gives in to his rage and becomes physically or verbally abusive? Or the young man who knows his skill set, is confident in his capabilities, remains calm and addresses the situation dispassionately?
Take a look at this story about Collette DiVitto. She is the founder of a cookie company. Her success story has gone nation-wide. Oh, by the way, she also has Down Syndrome. But that hasn’t’ stopped her. She is meek and she is “mighty!” She has turned,
- Problems into projects,
- Sorrows into serving,
- Difficulties into dividends,
- Obstacles into opportunities,
- Tragedies into triumphs,
- Stumbling blocks into stepping stones.
- Interruptions into interesting interludes.
- Adversities into adventures.
People who are emotionally stable possess “divine poise.” They don’t give free reign to their emotions. They realize that distractions, temptations and emotional outbursts are exciting and stimulating, but they also drain financial, moral, and physical resources. People who aren’t aware of the emotions and thus don’t manage them eventually fall into deep discouragement and depression. “The Little Flower,” St. Therese of Lisieux understood about this. In the Carmel, she lived with some other religious sisters who were very difficult to live with. She wrote, “Nothing made community life more trying than unevenness of temper.”
The meek have their ups and downs, but they don’t focus on the emotion – they focus on their goals and go about looking for the next, best thing to do.
This means someone who is teachable or trainable. They allow room in their lives for growth. They’re not defensive. They’re not on ego trips. Rather, they are on “success trips.” They ask advice from others. They listen. Like the Virgin Mary, they “ponder.” They consider cost and benefits of their actions. If their way isn’t the best, they switch.
The meek are sensitive spirits. They are especially sensitive to another’s insecurity and sadness. They offer reassurance in the face of another’s hostility. They offer affection to another’s loneliness. They offer friendship to another’s hurt. They offer apologies to all about everything.
They don’t have to be first. They know that God is first, the other person in front of them is second. They willing to be third.
Pastor Schuller closes with the following questions:
Are you meek? Are you Mighty enough to be controlled and disciplined? Are you Emotionally Stable enough to resist temptation? Are you Educable enough to realize you can’t do it all by yourself? Are you Kind enough to be sensitive, quiet, unselfish—Christ-molded? If so, you will have mastered the third of the Be-Happy Attitudes, “Blessed are the meek.” You’ll come to the end of your life with pride behind you, love around you, and hope ahead of you.
Audio version of the homily is here: