Holy Week: Meekness vs Arrogance
The Church’s penitential season of Lent winds down with Holy Week which begins with Palm/Passion Sunday. Some refer to it as the “Sunday with the long Gospel,” because Jesus’ Church proclaims the Passion Narrative according Matthew (26:30-27:66, Mark (14:26-15:47), or Luke (22:39-23:56), depending on the Lectionary cycle. On Good Friday she proclaims the Passion Narrative from St. John’s Gospel (18:1-1942). In these narratives from all four Gospels we see the clash of meekness displayed by Jesus and the arrogance of His accusers and crucifiers. On Good Friday it looked like the crucified Jesus signified the victory of the arrogant liars over the meek Truth-Sayer.
Jesus’s first lesson for His Apostles’ mission was to teach them the Beatitudes (Mt 5) as basic spiritual attitudes in order to be His witnesses in the world. Adopting these attitudes would guarantee them God’s blessings. He identified meekness as a Beatitude. “Blessed are the meek; they shall inherit the earth.” (Mt 5:4) He explained what meekness involved: “You have heard the commandment, ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’ But what I say to you is: offer no resistance to injury. When a person strikes you on the right cheek, turn and offer him the other. If anyone wants to go to law over your shirt, hand him your coat as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him two miles. Do not turn your back on the borrower.” (Mt 5:39-42)
Meekness is perceived by an arrogant world as weakness, cowardly, being a doormat for people to walk upon. Instead of the meek inheriting the earth, the world believes the earth will inherit the meek. The worldly powerful will bury the meek and mild. Biblically, meekness is anything but weak, as we see in Jesus’ explanation. It takes a strong person to abstain from seeking revenge on an enemy, or turning the other cheek, or enduring injury patienly and without resentment, or from carrying a grudge. It takes inner strength to be humble, gentle-hearted, and obedient especially when under provocation. Without meekness might is considered right, injury seeks revenge, selfishness dismisses generosity, and all that follows are power struggles, conflicts, and inner peace deprivation.
In the Gospel’s Passion narrative we see all the Beatitudes lived out by Jesus as He underwent humiliation, torture, and crucifixion. In the face of satanic arrogance displayed by sinful men He was humble-hearted, gentle-hearted, hungering and thirsting for holiness (God’s will), merciful (forgiving), single-hearted (pure of heart), peace-making (achieving communion with God), persecuted for righteousness’ sake (promoting justice), and had every kind of insult and slandered hurled against Him because of fidelity to His Father’s will. He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy of a suffering servant, “I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who plucked my beard; my face I did not shield from buffets and spitting.” (Is 50:4-7) As the Holy Spirit inspired St. Paul to write about Jesus’s meekness, “Rather, He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness … He humbled Himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:7-8)
The Passion of Jesus demonstrates that the power of Christianity lies not in human arrogance and pride but rather in humility and meekness. Humility generates meekness which produces mildness. Mild mannered people are calm, present to reality and are able to make wise decisions. Why? Because these virtues are the fruits of the Holy Spirit. (Gal 5:22ff) The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of wisdom, truth, joy and keeps us following in Jesus’ footsteps bearing our cross, which is the doing God’s will in all circumstances. The Holy Spirit equips us with the tool of humble meekness to accomplish this. This Beatitude guarantees us God’s blessing and victory. “When God is with us who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31)
The reality of Jesus’ suffering is attested in His pitiful cry from the depths of His suffering heart, quoting Ps 22:2: “My God, my God why have You abandoned me?” (Mk 15:34) Being totally innocent, His suffering was all the more painful. After all “He went about doing good works and healing all who were in the grip of the devil, and God was with Him.” (Acts 10: 38) Where were all those He cured from leprosy, blindness, possession, those He raised from the dead, His Apostles, the “good” people? They abandoned Him out of fear. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus told the Apostles, “Be on guard that you may not be put to the test. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” (Mt 14:38) Isn’t it amazing that we look out for the wellbeing of our body much more than we do for the wellbeing of our soul. Fearful for our physical safety we ignore or deny the promptings of our soul to stand up for what’s right. Jesus warns us, “What profit does a man show who gains the whole world but suffers the loss of his soul? What can a man offer for his life?” (Mk 8:36) Jesus’ last prayer to His Father, “Into Your hands I commend my spirit” reflected His meekness. Meekness empowers us to commend our spirit into God’s hands thereby defeating the satanically arrogant and prideful. (frsos)
Holy Week: Meekness vs Arrogance