The Third Beatitude: Blessed are the Meek

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Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

Heartland

Each workday I drive thirty miles to and from my teaching job. It’s a pleasant commute, though. Thirty miles of corn, soybean, and wheat fields, with an occasional cattle lot. This time of year, the newly sprouted yellow-green corn blades are beginning to show in seemingly infinite rows, covering uncountable black acres. These farmers are the basis for everything, because nobody would be able to do anything without the food they provide.

Many of us have forgotten where our food comes from or what hunger feels like. People in the past did not. Poor people could not. They knew that if you wanted to eat it, you had to grow it, and they wanted nothing more than to be able to do so undisturbed.

The meek will inherit the earth. I don’t know if we will all be farmers in the new creation when we obtain glorified bodies. I suspect we will be, because growing things and eating are such goods.

I want to inherit the earth. Do you? How do we?

Meek ≠ Weak

In the third beatitude, meek does not mean weak. Meekness is better understood as virtuous gentleness. A strong person is free to be gentle if he chooses. The weak person has to be gentle or the violent man will throttle him!

Meek means gentle, humbly patient, docile, or submissive. The opposite of meek is violently strong. Christ is saying something paradoxical, because ordinarily the strong, not the weak, get the good stuff on earth. But in the end, the gentle, not the cruel, will win Christ.

What Will the Meek Inherit?

What is the “earth” that will be inherited? Jesus’ Jewish listeners understood it to mean the land of Israel (Ps. 37:11).

Yet a little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look well at his place, he will not be there.
But the meek shall possess the land,
and delight themselves in abundant prosperity. (Ps 37: 10-11)

For us Christians, “earth” means heaven. As we just heard Our Lord’s say to Pilate in the reading of the Passion, “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn 18:36).

A Portrait of Christ

Something to remember about the Beatitudes is that they are miniature portraits of Christ. Remember what he said about himself and meekness?

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mt. 11:28-30)

Christ describes himself as “gentle and humble of heart.” Christ epitomizes virtuous gentleness.

Though he is God, he took the form of slave, even washing the feet of his apostles at the Last Supper. His meekness is evident in his wanting our friendship: “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (Jn 15:14).

One of the all-powerful Trinity’s greatest acts of meekness was in creating the universe. God decided to share his beatitude with beings he would create who were infinitely inferior to him, yet he would allow them to decide if they would do what he wanted, which was to love one another and him.

Christ especially showed his meekness on the cross when people hurled abuse at him and demanded he show his power.

Meekness and the Follower of Christ

Meekness is the humility, gentleness, and obedience proper to a disciple of Christ. Spiritual power requires a kind, humble heart that is eager to serve others and bring them to Christ.

With a quiet strength, the meek disciple endures sufferings, disappointments, and insults. He or she responds to provocation with humility, love, and forgiveness. If all men were meek, would the fifth commandment, condemning murder and hatred, even be necessary?

This indicates how we live Christian meekness toward others.

We return love for hatred and blessings and prayers for curses. One thing we do not do is violently impose our faith on others. Spreading the faith through the sword is not Christ’s way. The early Church conquered the powerful Roman Empire through non-violent means and we will re-evangelize our society in the same way.

Blessed Are the Meek

We have every reason to be meek. We did not bring ourselves into existence. Every good we have is a gift, either directly from God, or indirectly by means of those who came before us. We cannot prevent our own deaths. We cannot raise ourselves from the dead and give ourselves the gift of eternal life with God. But God can.

So this third Beatitude pertains mainly to the theological virtue of hope. We trust that God will keep his promises to us: to give us eternal life. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit heaven.

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