Sunday, August 17, 2014

“As for ourselves, yes, we must be meek, bear injustice, malice, rash judgment. We must turn the other cheek, give up our cloak, go a second mile.” — Dorothy Day

In the quote above, Dorothy Day was referring to this line from the New Testament—Matthew 5:5 "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”  She says what she does for she does not misunderstood or mistranslate this term “meek” in the Bible, as most do.  One scholar recounts that “This difficult-to-translate root (pra-) means more than ‘meek.’ Biblical meekness is not weakness but rather refers to exercising God's strength under His control – i.e. demonstrating power without undue harshness.  The English term ‘meek’ often lacks this blend – i.e. of gentleness (reserve) and strength.”  Yet another Biblical expert adds, “The Greek word praus, (pronounced prah-ooce’), means enduring injury with patience and without resentment.”  Aristotle, writing long before Matthew, wrote that the word most often translated as “meek” referred to “the character of one who has the passion of resentment under control, and who is therefore tranquil and untroubled.”  While most modern readers think that “meek” means passive, someone you can just walk over, someone who would never raise their voice, a sort of doormat who would be bullied by every kid in class—this is just wrong.  No one wants to be meek in today’s world—they want to be strong, but there is no one stronger than one who is truly meek.  Moses, the man who freed the Hebrews has this said about him in Numbers 12:3 - “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.”   Hardly a doormat.  In fact, the vast majority of Biblical scholars from almost every denomination hold that the word “does not suggest weakness; rather, it denotes strength brought under control. The ancient Greeks employed the term to describe a wild horse tamed to the bridle.”  So, if I was translating that verse from the Beatitudes, I would probably say, "Blessed is the person who has every instinct, every impulse, every unruly passion under control. Blessed is the person who is self-controlled for this person will have the Earth as it was intended.”  Hemingway called it “grace under pressure.”  We too often think of meekness as a failing and not a virtue, yet A. W. Tozer wrote:

             “The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God's estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is in the sight of God of more importance than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything. That is his motto." 

Thus, it seems to me, that meekness is curbing the "natural" desires to rebel, fight, have our own way, push ourselves forward, etc. We submit to the Lord in obedience to His will.   I pray that I am as “meek” as Christ was meek and as Christ called me to be meek.  Meekness is a true Christian virtue that calls us to be as Dorothy Day wrote in the quote above.  My prayer is that God will make me meek that I can endure injustice and persecution without resentment and hatred, but will, as Christ commanded, love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me, even as He forgave those who crucified Him. 

Note:  Dorothy Day was a famous Catholic worker for the people and is being considered for canonization.  A Catholic publication wrote that “If Dorothy Day is ever canonized, she will be the patron saint not only of homeless people but also of those who work to care for them.”

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