The Strength of Christlike Meekness
User’s Guide to Sunday, July 5
Sunday, July 5, is the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass readings: Zechariah 9:9-10; Psalm 145:1-2, 8-9, 10-11, 13-14; Romans 8:9, 11-13; and Matthew 11:25-30.
Meekness, like humility, has suffered a loss of good reputation. This may be because meekness has long been mistakenly associated with weakness, and humility has often been misunderstood as false self-deprecation. Yet Jesus, who is Mighty Lord and Prince of Peace, instructs: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29). He who is strong with the strength of God and humble in the truth of his divine Sonship can guide us to rediscover these fundamental predispositions for the rest we all desire.
Today’s first reading from the prophet Zechariah found its literal fulfillment in Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. The prophet speaks of the Messiah as a king riding meekly on a donkey as opposed to proud warriors on horses. The meek King’s proclamation is one of peace for the nations, and his rule is universal. Here, meekness is not seen as a prelude to inaction or indifference, but, rather, as the foundation for peaceful dominion.
In the Church’s social teaching, there is frequent reference to the assertion of St. Augustine in the City of God that peace is the tranquility of order. In Gaudium et Spes, this idea is expanded upon: “Peace is not merely the absence of war; nor can it be reduced solely to the maintenance of a balance of power between enemies; nor is it brought about by dictatorship. Instead, it is rightly and appropriately called an enterprise of justice” (78). The Lord’s reign of peace is one that rests on the establishment of justice. The cost of justification of humanity was no small one for Jesus — it was one that not only led to teaching and ministering to the poor and the sick, but ultimately to the laying down of his life.
True meekness and humility do not come about without a battle against pride and egoism. St. Paul describes this ongoing battle within, this fierce struggle not to be dominated by selfish desires of the flesh, but to be led by the self-giving impetus of the Spirit. He writes, “For if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). It is clear that meekness is not passive inactivity but the result of willing and acting to allow the Spirit of Christ to rule over our unruly tendencies.
From the passionate and fiery Augustine, who allowed himself to be led by a child to “take and read” the words of Scripture, to the intense Thérèse, who weathered the storms of her interior and bodily ailments, all the saints ultimately found the key to true meekness not in being weak, but in being little. In today’s Gospel, Jesus proclaims, “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned, you have revealed them to little ones” (Matthew 11:25).
To be little in the Gospel sense takes great strength. It entails willingness to surrender our wills and our lives to the greater will of the Father, who loves us and whose plan for our lives is one of goodness and grace. In Jesus we see what strength such surrender requires, especially in Gethsemane. The struggle of total surrender comes only at a great cost, but the rest and peace that follow more than reward the price paid.
Sister Mary Madeline Todd is a Dominican Sister of the St.
Cecilia Congregation in
Nashville. She received her
doctorate in sacred theology from the Angelicum in Rome and
currently teaches religion and philosophy at Mount de Sales Academy in Baltimore.