4th Sunday in Ordinary Time A
Last night I heard Fr. Pat give a terrific homily about the Beatitudes and I was jealous of him. It is his first go round with the three year cycle. The Beatitudes and the whole Sermon on the Mount are virgin territory stretching out for weeks. And here am I on my sixth through.
Yet, there are advantages to being in my position as well. You can find something relatively hidden and expound on it that you had never considered before and have not heard much discussion. And so it is with “The Loneliest Beatitude.” (Doesn’t that just beg to be a children’s book?”)
I divide up the Beatitudes into a few categories. There are those traits I think any Christian would desire even if they are not always easy to accomplish. I hope we would want to be peacemakers, merciful and clean of heart. Then there are those which we do not necessarily invite into our lives but hope to have the courage to pursue: to possess “poverty to spirit” and to need more Christ in our lives, to have the courage to withstand persecution for our faith and to be so fiercely devoted to righteousness that its lack feel likes the pangs of hunger. No one desires to mourn but we it is inevitable and it is good to know we will be comforted. So that leaves us with one last Beatitude. What is it? [Nobody answers.] See, it is the loneliest Beatitude.
“Blessed are the meek. For they will inherit the land.” Meekness tends to be neither desirous nor inevitable. We associate it with smallness, diminishment, being discounted, shoved aside. The only slightly positive mention I can think of makes it kind of pity as in the great church song of my childhood which said, “Let me be a little meeker, with my brother who is weaker.” My brother would point at me to say I was the weaker one and would elbow him in the ribs to prove him wrong thereby destroying the point of the song.
And if meekness is not popular, the promise attached to it seems far-fetched indeed. There is no way to meek will inherit the land. Land is won historically by struggle, by armies, by taking possession. I saw an ad for a new show on TNT which I am sure I will never watch but will be highly critically acclaimed. A character said that land is won only one way – through sin. The meek inheriting the land would not be a blockbuster in the ratings I suppose.
So what is this meekness? It is the opposite of pride. It is the ability to put God and then others first. Meekness means that we create space for one another. That we are able to invite the other without fear of exploitation. That we can occupy the same space without being a threat. At our gathering sponsored by the Schenectady Clergy against Hate, Methodist minister Sara Baron recalled a homily given by John Wellesley, the founder of Methodism. Quoting Second Kings, one says to another, “If your heart is my heart than take my hand as well.” Wellesley goes on to say that they did not say if your opinion is my opinion or if your creed is my creed or if your color or ethnicity is my color and ethnicity. All that matter is if your heart is my heart.
Meekness might be a critical Beatitude in these days. A place to share dialogue, to understand with a common purpose. The attitude of this Beatitude demands that we look at the other with respect and as sharing a common cause. We do not look for superiority or advantage, but to grow with the experience of delighting with someone in a space and a world meant to hold us all. And how will the meek inherit the land? Well if you were not desirous or envious; if you simply wanted what was most righteous and what was best for the other, how could you ever lose? You would inherit everything.
For all his power, Jesus Christ described himself as meek and humble of heart. It is why his space included failing disciples, threatening enemies and sinners of every stripe. It why he let the children come to him. It why he still opens his arms to us his beloved sinners. His way of seeing the world is badly needed now. Let us have the courage to value meekness in imitation of the Lord.
“Blessed are the meek. For they will inherit the land.”