Friday, 13 December 2013

The Beatitudes: Blessed are the Meek and Gentle Part 2

We reviewed what being meek was definitely not, and hopefully this will help us to perceive correctly the true meaning of being meek. This Beatitude hinges on seeing God in all things, people and situations, good or bad, and relies on denying self in order to make spaces for God. True acts of obedience include forgetting the acts of people who hurt us and offering instead kindness and our prayers.

 
To see Pope Francis embrace lovingly the embarrassingly tumour-ridden head of a man, so blighted
in his life by shudders and probably rejection, is an object lesson of seeing God in all things. What was the reaction of this poor man and can we all learn something from what he said? 

"In an exclusive interview with Mail Online, the brave man has described meeting the head of the Catholic church, saying that being caressed by Pope Francis made his heart beat so fast he thought he 'would die'. The pontiff's hug was 'like paradise', he said, adding: 'He didn't even think about whether or not to hug me. I'm not contagious, but he didn't know that. But he just did it: he caressed me all


over my face, and as he did I felt only love,' Mr Riva recollected: 'He came down from the altar to see the sick people. He embraced me without saying a word. I felt as though my heart was leaving my body.' "



Pope Francis preaches the Beatitudes by his very actions and his following Jesus Christ, and this what he says about being meek: "Only by contemplating the suffering humanity of Jesus can we become meek, humble, and tender like he is. There is no other way". Certainly, we have to make an effort to "find Jesus; to dwell on his passion, how much he suffered; to think of his meek silence". That is our effort; then "the rest is up to him, and he will take care of everything that is missing. But you have to do this much: hide your life in God with Christ".

Thus, to be good Christians you have to contemplate the suffering humanity of Jesus. "How to bear witness? Contemplate Jesus. How to forgive? Contemplate Jesus suffering. How not to hate your neighbour? Contemplate Jesus suffering. How to avoid gossiping about one's neighbour? Contemplate Jesus suffering. There is no other way."

True meekness instils a virtue of character which is brave and enduring, coupled with tranquility, serenity and unselfishness. We are brave in the bearing of hardships, especially shame, ridicule and rejection. We are brave in exercising true courage by overcoming our fears, self-control, refusal of revenge and gentleness when insulted. Those who win the Victoria Cross are all normal people who, for the sake of their comrades' lives, overcame deep and inhibiting fears, which most admit to having, and performed incredibly heroic acts in the near certainty face of death.

To see meek people we would note that they are not prey to anger, count nothing as an injury, sorrowing over the misfortune of others, and are not envious, are patient under adversity, always exhibiting kindness, benignity, lack of any evil, acceptance of their own unworthiness, refraining from self ambition, but rather are ambitious for the right thing at all times, no matter what cost to themselves and bearing all things bravely. They are truly safe from the slightest despair and never broken. Rejoicing always in the truth, they are free from delusive error, so the world passes by them having no impact: they have renounced the world, seeing it clearly for what it is.

Their faith is such that it enforces utter absence of any right for esteem or deference, lacking any desires and ambitions. They in fact decry any rights for themselves, reputation, consideration, independence, honours and liberty. They yield all to God and are as firm as a rock in adhering to the rules of the Church, especially in matters of doctrine and faith, always practicing obedience. These are not easy attributes to attain, especially in a world that questions everything, believing in nothing but in itself.

If, on the other hand, we desire that which makes us proud, independent, and our self will or confidence ensured, allowing too uncontrolled anger or lust, we end up destroying any peace, happiness and prospects we have. In the worse cases, we turn our faces against God, making ourselves into a god and reaping the whirlwind of insanity. Those who win millions in lotteries often find misery and division, ending up like the prodigal son eating the husks of swine, so why do people gamble their lives away?

The greatest practitioner of meekness is Jesus Christ who taught by his example and requires us to following in his footsteps if we are to reach Heaven. Gandhi greatly admired Jesus but could never become a Christian because of the example set by Christians who seemed incapable of following Christ and establishing themselves as true Christ-following Christians. Gandhi advocated the practice of non-violence to achieve freedom from colonial masters in India.

According to Richard Gregg, who studied this method, it requires tremendous self-discipline not to hit back under the harshest of conditions, including certain death, and at the bottom-line is the ability to love. We should concentrate as much possible of our attention, energy, thought and time upon creative, constructive good and letting the evil, so far as possible, die from lack of attention, from being ignored, or crowded out by good. If we find our efforts snubbed or repulsed, treated with contempt or exploited, returned with injury or ill-will, we must not allow ourselves to become resentful or self-pitying. This will be a test of our persistence, our sincerity, our will, our love and our imagination and skill. It is a modern application of Christ's exhorting us about the necessity for seeking the Kingdom of God importunately.

To recap using the words of Gerald Vann OP: "We will fail if we are glum, and never have a word of encouragement, or gratitude or praise, or even a word at all, for those around us; on the other hand we will fail if we are garrulous and boring, producing a constant stream of meaningless small talk which swirls about the heads of others until they feel submerged and stifled. Untidiness can become a sin, because it causes real discomfort and inconvenience to others; there is on the other hand the finicky tidiness, the passion for quite unnecessary exactitude, which can never bear to see anything a millimetre out of its proper position". There should be moderation in all things and to reflect on others and the World God's love for you and all His creatures.

We are to be meek and gentle, living in the world, but like Jesus, we must never be afraid to correct and rebuke the evil in this world and those responsible for it. If such wrong-doing does not touch us or we are unmoved by it there is something seriously wrong with us. This leads us to the ability to mourn over our sins and those of the world and for that we must have made progress in climbing up the steps of Poverty of Spirit and Meekness which will pull away the blindness from our eyes with regard to our inner selves and the world about us.

References:

The Public Life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Preaching of the Beatitudes, Henry James Coleridge, Burns and Oates 1876.

The Power of Non-violence, Richard B Gregg, George Routledge and Sons, Ltd 1935.

The Divine Pity, Gerald Vann OP, Sheed & Ward, 1946