Following the lectionary on a recent Sunday, I read what are called “The Beatitudes,” the first words of Jesus’ teaching ministry recorded in the gospel of Matthew—a listing of conditions that result in blessedness or in being happy. “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth” caught my attention. “Safe are the strong for they will have power over everyone else on earth” seems more like what we think today. Milquetoast, pushover, weak, passive, unassertive, timid are words usually associated with meek. These are not words we value or desire to be. What was Jesus talking about?
In Matthew 11:29-30, Jesus identifies himself as meek and promises that being associated (yoked) with him brings rest and a light burden. Not weak or timid is this meekness that he claims; Jesus is not a pushover. Neither is he concerned about worldly status or having power over others. His meekness is about living in compassion, humility, mutuality, and being grounded in relationship with God.
This meekness offers a different kind of strength. Some people today call that kind of strength “soft power.” It is power to persevere. It is being fully who one is without the burden of trying to please or impress others or of being in charge of everything. It reminds me of the Civil Rights song, “We shall not be moved.” It makes me think of the three African-American female mathematicians (Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson) whose work was so crucial to NASA in its early years, whose story is told in the movie Hidden Figures. Their position in society did not allow them to challenge openly the racist and sexist conditions under which they worked. They took what was imposed on them, persevered, and never let their oppression define them. I would say they were yoked with Jesus and the “meekness” they displayed was the kind that inherits the earth and changes the world.
Blessed is not a matter of having material treasures and prosperity, or having status, or having the required virtues, but a description of what it is to live in God, which often includes suffering. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake. . .” And being blessed is not something that happens after death in an unearthly exalted place called heaven. “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth.” The beatitudes are descriptive of what it is like to live in the reign of God—something we can know in part and experience now.
Could or would you choose to be meek as Jesus intends it? With Jesus what would it mean to be meek in the care of the earth?
If blessings are not worldly treasures, how do you experience being blessed, if you do?
Gift us with humility, compassion, and courage for just action in unity with You.
For further reference:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.” (See Matthew 11: 28-30.)
“. . . the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace (See Psalm 37: 1-17).