The eight Beatitudes from the sermon on the Mount that we receive today in the Gospel according to St. Matthew are eight paradoxes about our faith. A paradox is a thing that is true even though we have trouble believing it because it seems to go against common sense.
The heart of the life of a Christian is ultimately a paradox — in order to live life eternally, we need to die to self every day. This kind of thinking makes no sense to the earthly minded.
This Sunday, I’d like us to focus on verse five: “Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the land.”
We need to ask ourselves what do we mean by meekness? What does it mean to be meek? The definition that we will get from Merriam-Webster is something about enduring injury with patience and without resentment. A deeper definition — the kind of definition that is taught in great Catholic schools like the schools at our parish — is that meekness is the disposition that results from the virtue of humility. To put that another way, one demonstrates meekness because one is striving to be humble.
In the eyes of the world, meekness is the mark of losers. The mantra of our world is that one must achieve to win, one must make a plan and then ruthlessly pursue that plan to the ultimate victory. For the world thinks that to be meek is to be weak. The world does not see the paradox: the meek look like they have no power, yet they have connected to an everlasting power: the power of the Cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So what can we say about humility?
Humility is the opposite of pride. So humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking less about yourself. It is not low self-esteem; it is low self-obsession.
Humility is understanding that I am not the center of the universe; I am not the axis of the Earth’s rotation. It is understanding that God runs the world, not men and women.
Another way to put it is that meekness comes from humility, and humility is knowing one’s place relative to God and to our neighbor. It is knowing that God is God and I am not. It is not about me, it’s about him. Fr. Lopez, who taught Fr. Neil at St. Pius X Catholic High School here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, had a sign on his classroom wall that said: “There is a God, and you’re not him.” That is an affront to a worldly person. The humble person reads that sign and is not resentful about its truth but joyfully submits to its truth. When you and I can honestly subscribe to the evangelical bumper sticker that is HE>I, we are on the path of humility. And we will thereby have the meekness that will inherit the land.
What about the word blessed? Blessing in this world is something measurable: it is money, it is power, it might be fame. Christians understand that blessings are the immeasurable graces God gives us out of His love for us. The meek are happy to accept the gift of God’s grace, and they are happy to admit it is a grace undeserved. The world wants to understand, “how is one going to know that one is victorious if we don’t keep score?” The Christian knows that the winning score was posted on our behalf by our Savior Jesus Christ, and nothing more is required of us than to follow him and to love him. Dying to self is all about not keeping score — a paradox that confuses the wise of the world.
The land that the meek will inherit is not the earth that we live in; it’s the new earth — glorified by God at the second coming. The meek do not fear death, they fear the second death that is eternal separation from our father in heaven.
The earth is fallen, which the Book of Genesis makes crystal clear. The meek accept this reality. They understand the ruler of this world is the one Jesus called “the father of lies.” Christians trust in God’s G-I-F-T: God Is Finally Triumphant. The Devil thinks he rules, but we know ultimately God rules.
The lies of the Devil permeate worldly thinking. The worldly are broken people claiming to be whole. The worldly are blind people claiming to be able to see the future. They are ignorant people claiming superior knowledge. They are foolish people claiming to be wise.
The meek know that this world is sliding into perdition, that it will end and end badly. Yet, the meek live in this world peacefully because:
- they know they are broken, but they follow Jesus the fixer;
- they are blind to the ways of the world, but they see with eyes of faith;
- they do not know as the world knows — facts and figures — but they know Jesus is the truth and the life and the source of all real knowledge;
- they know they look foolish to the world, but they know that fear of the Lord is the beginning of true wisdom.
As we prepare to come to the altar of sacrifice, let us humbly accept the gift of Jesus fully present in the Eucharist. Let us humbly offer our sacrifices at the altar. Let us receive the body and blood and soul and divinity of our Lord in Holy Communion, and let us inherit the land of eternal life.