Saturday of Lent – Week 5

week05

Another nonsensical secret of happiness: Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. If anything seems to suggest how out of touch religious people are with the real world this must qualify.

The meek allow the strong to walk over them. Non-violence may be a beautiful, heroic ideal but it does not defeat evil. The earth that the meek inherit is a wasteland that their oppressor has abandoned because he can extract nothing more from it. What, in the real world, does this Beatitude mean?

I have often thought about it while visiting countries riddled with political and financial corruption and endemic violence. Often the national character seems anything but corrupt and violent. It may be evidently gentle and generous and find more to celebrate in life than to exploit and steal. Meekness – if this is what it means – seems to make them dangerously vulnerable to those who are callous and selfish.

And, ‘inherit the earth’. Maybe this is the key to understanding meekness. Not possess or conquer but inherit. We inherit things after a death. They come to us by the will of the previous owner or through a line of succession. The meek have gone through the passageway of death. What they inherit – the earth – may look the same to those who have not died yet. But to those who have died and come into their inheritance the earth looks and is quite different.

They say the first white settlers in Australia found it easy to take the land from the indigenous people because they, the aborigines, had no sense of personal ownership. It seemed inconceivable to possess the land because the land and the people owned each other.

What have the meek died to or – in some cases perhaps – never known? It must be the very attitudes and behaviours which make the meek so vulnerable – pride, greed, jealousy, hard-heartedness, the lust for violence. All the things that keep the war in Syria going against all reason and despite the efforts of good negotiators and, of course, despite the dead, mutilated, displaced and the refugees.

Cities are liberated but become uninhabitable in the process. Those who will one day inherit them and rebuild civilisation will have died to the self-destructiveness of those who take advantage of meekness because they see only weakness.

Think of this as you consider how Jesus passed through his Passion and gave humanity a new way of seeing the earth – a vision that is still struggling for acceptance.

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