Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gentle and Meek

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Mt 5:5)

Picture by Louise Docker, taken on March 03, 2007 at 16:04, in Sydney, Australia. I found it at Wikimedia under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

The verse above is from the Revised Standard Version, The Jerusalem Bible uses the word “gentle” instead of “meek”. The Oxford Dictionary describes “meek” as “Not proud or self-willed; piously humble; patient and unresentful under injury or reproach; …”

As we prepare for the birth of Christ, we can see these qualities in Christ himself. As described two days ago, Christ “emptied himself” (Phil 2:7). Jesus was born in a humble place: a manger. Although he was blunt with His assessment of the Pharisees and scribes, He remained patient and unresentful despite their treatment of Him at His Passion. His meekness or gentleness is not one of passive timidity or weakness. It is an active kenosis. It is the denial of the self and submission to the will of the Father. It is thus that someone meek and gentle is blessed by God.

Many Catholics in Singapore are very respectful of priests. Sinful priests that we are, we are tempted to take advantage of this reverence that the faithful have. Some of us take on an arrogant stance and look down upon those under our care. The longer a priest we are the more arrogant we become. We seem to think that we know better than the laity. Some of us may even take this attitude with priests who are junior to us! How ‘un-meek&rsquo we are!

In a modern world of specialization, Catholic priests are definitely supposed to be ‘expert’ in the knowledge of the faith. Some of us are even more specialized — we were sent to study a particular branch of theology or philosophy. Yet it is the common experience of everyone that as we study more and more, we discover the vastness of knowledge and realise how little we really do know. Before I was a priest, I studied Biology in the university. There were professors who knew plenty about birds but acknowledged their lack of knowledge for fungi, for example. The proper ‘meek and gentle’ attitude priests should have is to acknowledge that they have a limited knowledge and to read up what they do not know. The ‘un-meek&rsquo way would be to pretend we know and end up giving wrong information and direction. I have had to apologize and retract my words several times just because I have not been meek and gentle. More ‘un-meek&rsquo are we when do not even admit the possibility that we could have made a mistake.

When we say “gentle”, we usually have the idea of handling something gingerly and carefully. I believe that the meek would be given the earth as an inheritance from God because only the humble and patient would be careful enough to look after the earth. If we look at those who have little care for the earth and ecology, i.e. those in the ‘un-green’ camp of things, they are definitely not meek or gentle. Avarice within industry leads to irresponsibility and that leads to a disregard for the health of the planet. Only those who have Christ-like meekness will be good stewards of the earth.

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