"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land"
As a boy I remember seeing in comic books the famous ad about
the "weakling" shamed by the bully who kicks sand in his face
on the beach and walks off with his girlfriend. Only when
the weakling decides to lift weights to build up his body
and begin to look like Jack Armstrong is he ready to bop the
bully on the chin and reclaim his "prize." The meek inherit
the earth? No way!
Few of the Beatitudes confront the values of our culture so
directly. The land belongs to the strong, not the meekthat
is the axiom of our geopolitics today. In the land of the
Bible, the same equation is played out daily: Both sides believe
that the "only language" their opponent understands is force.
What can Jesus mean in this third Beatitude of Matthew's Sermon
on the Mount? The first three Beatitudes highlight those whom
the Gospel believes God favors in a particular way: the poor,
those who mourn, the meek. The Greek word translated as "meek"
is praus, and its meaning is not meekness in the sense
of insipid weakness or a lack of assertivenessas the
English term can implybut a lack of power or being defenseless.
When one sees the long tattered lines of Afghan refugees or
staring eyes of hungry African children, their plight is not
one of being "meek" in the sense of shy or retiring, but of
being without power or resources and, therefore, terribly
vulnerable. By extension, the word can also move beyond the
level of one's social condition and refer to a lack of pretense
or arrogance, a gentleness and authentic humility that come
from understanding that ultimately one's life and power rest
Jesus' Beatitude is a quotation from Psalm 37:11: "But the
meek shall possess the land, they shall delight in abounding
peace," and it taps into a strong biblical vision. Because
the Israelites were people of the land, their dreams for peace
often included the longing for a time when the land's bounty
would not be destroyed and all could live on the land in peace.
Particularly beautiful is the vision of the future in Isaiah:
"They shall live in the houses they build, and eat the fruit
of the vineyards they plant; they shall not build houses for
others to live in, or plant for others to eat. As the years
of a tree, so the years of my people; and my chosen ones shall
long enjoy the produce of their hands. They shall not toil
in vain, nor beget children for sudden destruction....The
wolf and the lamb shall graze alike, and the lion shall eat
hay like the ox. None shall hurt or destroy on all my holy
mountain, says the Lord" (65:21-25).
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus also envisions a kingdom of
God where peace and justice abound, where all God's children
have a place of security and joy. This is the powerful dream
Jesus summons up at the beginning of his ministry. Blessed
are the meek, the powerless, the downtrodden, because in God's
reign they will not remain disenfranchised but will inherit
the land. The Gospel's vision of a just future that reverses
the situations of oppression that so often hold sway extends
now beyond the land of Israel to the whole earth and encompasses
all those whose lives and hopes are threatened and who have
no resource to lean on other than God's own providence.
What is remarkable in the Gospel of Matthew is that Jesus
himself throws his lot with people like this. He describes
himself as "meek and humble of heart" (11:29) and the evangelist
cites the words of the prophet Zechariah to emphasize the
paradox of Jesus the king entering Jerusalem on a donkey.
"Behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass..."
(Matthew 21:5, citing Zechariah 9:9). Jesus' mission is to
identify with the least (21:35-46), to teach and heal that
they might have justice and to exemplify the virtues of gentleness
and humility that the Spirit of God instills.
Without fail, Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount summons
us to take stock of our values from God's point of view.
Name someone you know who exemplifies the Beatitude,
"Blessed are the meek...." Explain.
Have you ever been in a situation where you
were defenseless? How did you respond?
to this month's Questions for Reflection
from "God in Our Midst."
By Judith Dunlap
If the word meek describes someone who is patient
and mild-tempered, that person is blessed. Patience does
not come easily to me. That was especially true when I was
raising my children. Every time I'd read First Corinthians,
"Love is patient...it is not quick tempered" (1 Corinthians
13:4,5), I cringed.
I love my children, and I would give my life for them. But
there were times when they were young that I was anything
but patient and mild-tempered. At one point I had a six-year-old,
three little ones under the age of three and a husband who
traveled. There were days I just lost it. I went to bed
hating myself, resolving to do better, but awoke the next
day only to lose my temper again. Finally, on a retreat,
I learned that there were things about myself I couldn't
So I turned it over to God. Every morning I asked God for
the patient love I needed to get me to lunch. At lunch I
prayed to make it to dinner, at dinner to bedtime. After
a few weeks I woke up to a different household. Because
I was calmer, so were the kids. God's patient love became
mine. I'd like to say the change was permanent but it wasn't.
I'd break the cycle and start praying all over again. But
I learned something very important through it all.
I learned that the meek inherit more than the land. They
also inherit the peace that comes with God's never-failing
love. That was the love Paul was talking about in First
Corinthians: God's love, a love more powerful than a mother's.
A love I can claim as my own and share with my children.
What an inheritance!
Talk about how difficult it is to change old habits
and how we sometimes need God's help. Suggest everyone
write down one habit he or she would like help with.
Say a prayer together and burn the pieces of paper
as a sign of your turning it over to God.
to this month's FAMILY CORNER.
Fellowship of the Ring
By Frank Frost
Tolkien's trilogy The Lord of the Rings reportedly
sold more than 100 million books. Now the movie version
of the first volume in the series, The Lord of the Rings:
The Fellowship of the Ring, is finding box-office success.
The plot of the film is simple enough. A gold ring recovered
from the severed finger of a slain warrior at the beginning
of the film carries magic power over all things. Forged
in a hellish inferno at the end of Middle Earth, the ring
has been turned to the service of evil and can only be redeemed
by returning it to the fires from which it sprang. The ring
turns up in the home of Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood), a youthful
and pure-hearted lad who becomes a reluctant recruit to
carry the ring back to its primal furnace. Mentored by an
aged wizard, Gandalf (Ian McKellan), Frodo sets out joined
by three other youthful male hobbits
(a cheerful race of "little people") in search
The trip is hardly begun when Frodo is threatened by ghostly
figures riding giant horses in the night who are out to
capture the ring. Frodo and friends are helped by a brave
human, Aragorn, to elude the "wraiths." Shortly
Frodo's companions include two other humans, Boromir and
Gimli (a dwarf), and Legolas, an elf. Together they form
the Fellowship of the Ring, resolving to help Frodo safely
transport the ring to the fiery furnace at Mount Doom on
the other end of Middle Earth.
The movie traces their journey in the face of life-threatening
obstaclesfrom scaling the highest snow-covered mountains
to descending into the deepest mines in the earth. The physical
hazards are made increasingly more dangerous because of
malicious attempts on their lives by subhuman killers and
because of magical power turned against them by a good wizard
The Fellowship of the Ring is a dark film. The confrontation
of the fellowship's goodness versus the powers of evil is
heightened by the ugliness of hateful creatures born out
of the mud and the violent conflicts that repeatedly put
the lives of the fellowship in extreme danger. Hope is always
present in the person of Frodo, however, and in the Wizard
Much has been made of the fact that Tolkien was Catholic,
and of the moral universe created in his books and evoked
so effectively in the movie. This is a world where power
corrupts (and absolute power corrupts absolutely). It is
a world where the antidote to evil is found in selfless
dedication, acceptance of responsibility, in loyalty and
integrity whatever the risks may be. This unambiguous world
is primarily male.
The box-office success of The Fellowship of the Ring
is not surprising given the cult status of Tolkien's
books for two generations. But it is welcome for the clear
moral universe that it presents to a young audience through
AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball
Catherine of Siena (1347-1380)
From an early age, Catherine of Siena knew her mind. She
also spoke it, impressing all with her wisdom and holiness.
A bright, happy, imaginative child, Catherine liked to be
alone. She spent hours in her room in prayer. At six she
reported a vision of Jesus, surrounded by his disciples,
inviting her to belong to him alone. At 12 she told her
parents that she had no intention of marrying.
As she grew she became even more determined to follow her
own path. She briefly thought about becoming a nun but instead
chose to remain a layperson and immerse herself in Dominican
spirituality as a member of the Third Order. She devoted
herself to the care of the sick during famines and plagues.
She attracted disciples of her own who supported her calls
for unity and repentance during a chaotic period of Church
Catherine's cries for reform were meant for all to hear.
Though she did not learn to write until later in life, she
dictated many of her thoughts over the years. She challenged
Church leaders to be "mirrors of freely chosen poverty"
rather than live in "pretentious vanity." She met personally
with Pope Gregory XI in Avignon, France, urging him to return
to Rome and leave luxury behind. Her fearless counsel strengthened
his resolve. His successor, Urban VI, continued to rely
on Catherine's advice and her tireless work for Church unity.
Catherine of Siena left behind nearly 400 letters. Her major
work on the spiritual life, The Dialogue, is considered
a spiritual classic. She is the first layperson and one
of the first two women to be named a Doctor of the Church.
She was canonized in 1461.
Catherine Hilkert, O.P.
The special relationship between Catherine of Siena and
Mary Catherine Hilkert began when she was given the name
of the saint at Baptism. It was nourished when, at age seven,
she received the book Saints for Girls and learned
about her patron's family life, her deep love of God, her
strong will. It was deepened when Mary Catherine joined
the Dominican Sisters in Akron, Ohio.
Now the author of the book Speaking With Authority: Catherine
of Siena and the Voice of Women Today (Paulist, 2001),
Sister Mary Catherine feels blessed at their lifelong friendship.
"Catherine went into the streets of Siena during the
bubonic plague to nurse the dying. She worked with political
prisoners. She did things women weren't supposed to do,"
Sister Catherine told Every Day Catholic. She spoke
from her office at the University of Notre Dame, where she
is an associate professor in the theology department.
Catherine of Siena stands out in her "freedom and boldness,"
her "sense of vocation," her "devotion to
the gospel," her "deep trust in God in very dark
times." Her letters show that she "always spoke
the truth in love. She was unflinching. She had a deep sense
of herself as a preacher," said Sister Mary Catherine,
who is regarded as one of her congregation's top preachers.
She also finds something appealing in Catherine of Siena's
"limits and frailty. She didn't always get things right.
She was politically naïve. She got in over her head."
When Catherine of Siena was named a Doctor of the Church
in 1970, says Sister Catherine, she was recognized for the
totality of her gifts and "her response to her moment
The following material
is available at www.AmericanCatholic.org:
of the Beatitudes," St. Anthony Messenger, March 2002
Forgotten Art of Blessing," St. Anthony Messenger, October
products can be ordered from St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan
from the School of Suffering: A Young Priest With Cancer
Teaches Us How to Live" (book)
Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount" (book) "Breaking
Open the Gospel of Matthew: The Sermon on the Mount" (book)
on the Mount" (audiocassette)
Beatitudes: Finding Where Your Treasure Is" (Catholic Update)