Possessing the Land

Blessed are the meek: for they shall possess the land.

Matthew 5:4

The first beatitude, poverty, teaches us to count all things as dung if we may gain Christ (Phil. 3:8). It represents the ultimate regulation of eros or concupiscence, that power by which our soul reaches out for what is (rightly or wrongly) perceived to be pleasing and beneficial.

The second beatitude, meekness, similarly regulates thymos or irascibility—the “fighting spirit” that drives us to overcome obstacles to what we believe to be true and good.

Note that we are speaking of the regulation, not the suppression, of this natural faculty. As Fr. James Kirby notes, meekness is not weakness, or cowardly surrender to the forces of evil.

Though Christ demonstrated meekness in allowing himself to be “led as a sheep to the slaughter” (Is. 53:7), his crucifixion is not the result of any defect on his part. Rather, in his passion and resurrection Christ lays down his own soul, and takes it up again by his own power, in obedience to the will of his Father, for the salvation of those whom he loves to the end (Jn. 10:18).

So far from constituting weakness, meekness is strength in the service of what is truly good, as opposed to what we may, in moments of weakness, wrongly desire.

Our Lord was equally meek when he cleansed the temple of thieves, out of zeal for his Father’s house (Jn 2:15-17), and when he endured the scourges and mockery of sinful men (Jn. 19:1-3), to obtain the forgiveness of our sins.

The meek are “slow to anger,” because they know that “the anger of man works not the justice of God” (Jas. 1:19-20). At the same time, the meek stand ready to fulfill their duties to God and neighbor, even in the face of contradiction, calumny, and coercion.

The meek soul knows that he is not the center of the universe, and that the right order of things does not hinge on his reception of honors or accolades. He is therefore willing to admit his weaknesses, errors, and limitations, and ready to endure humiliation and suffering for the sake of what is right.

The meek man realizes that God has placed him in the world for a reason, and he is fortified by the confidence that if he strives to fulfill his vocation, the Lord will reward him with his promised blessing.

Like St. Joseph, who braved the contempt of his neighbors, the wrath of tyrants, the perils of a strange land, and a lifetime of labor to safeguard the Lord and his Mother, such a man will possess an abundance of necessary graces here below, and a superabundance of joy hereafter.

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