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Stories Seldom Heard Archive

Stories Seldom Heard

 

237th Edition         

Matthew 11:28 - Blessed are the Meek

April 2019


 

Welcome to Stories Seldom Heard.  I would especially like to welcome the parishioners of Holy Trinity, Emmanuel and St. Joseph’s Parishes, Dayton, Ohio.

 


 

Perhaps one of the best ways to explore the beatitudes is through storytelling because in a way the beatitudes are miniature parables.  They are wisdom sayings.  Yet, the blessings they promise can slip into our lives almost without noticing them if we don’t take time to pay attention to our daily experiences.  So, let me tell you a story. 

 

Recently, I had lunch with a friend whose son has made a major life decision.  Her son, Alejandro, received a fellowship to continue studying the impact that international gold mining in Guatemala has on the water supplies in local communities downstream in El Salvador.  As he began to examine his findings, he was amazed at how easily and silently water sources can become polluted. Even though he had never taken clean water for granted, his work brought him to a deeper appreciation of the importance of portable water.  In an e-mail to his mother he said that his “hands on work” in Guatemala and El Salvador is just the beginning of a long human rights journey for him and those with whom he works.

 

I was proud to hear the story of this young man whom I have known for many years.  I admire his courage and vision because along with you, I recognize the seriousness and difficulties of the work (ministry) to which he has committed himself.

 

We might not at first relate this young man’s life choice to Jesus’ call to be meek and humble of heart, but perhaps it will become clearer as we reflect on Matthew 11: 28–30.  In this passage Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.”  Is Alejandro’s choice what Jesus had in mind?  Would Jesus consider him to be on the path of meekness?  Alejandro’s vocation probably might not sound very meek to us because, sad to say, in our society meekness and humility are often portrayed as weakness.  Gentle people are often over-looked, taken advantage of or ridiculed.  Many people, perhaps even we, don’t see meekness as a desirable or strong virtue. 

 

Yet, in Matthew’s Gospel when Jesus speaks of meekness, he uses himself as an example.  He says, “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.” (Mt 11:29) If Jesus is the example of a meek person, we understand better what meekness requires of us.  Meekness or gentleness is a demanding virtue.  It requires a strong, constant spirit and a compassionate heart.  Meek people aren’t necessarily at the center of power, but they have the power to create good and right relationships for themselves and others.  They also strive to protect the vulnerable, whether it be marginalized people or the fragile integrity of the earth and its limited resources.

 

The meek realize their responsibility towards all creation.  The multiverses, galaxies and our Mother Earth are all God’s “properties.”  This earth and all life that has issued forth from God are not our possessions.  We are only visitors on this earth.  Compared to the lifetime of our universe, we are here for only a few fleeting moments.  The meek know this.  They do not squander what has been given to them as gift.  They know that the Promised Land of the Old Testament and the “land” of which Jesus speaks, are not land-titles to property.  God thinks big! The “holy land” that God promises is identified as a place of mutual respect, a place of safety where power and possessions are shared.  Realizing this, makes it even more painful to see the bloodshed and suffering that ensues when any nation claims a God given right to a geographic region.

 

For those listening to Jesus and for us now, our understanding of meekness has been a slow process.  The meek realize this and accept their lack of understanding, while at the same time strive to come to a fuller understanding of this beatitude by setting things right.  Flannery O’Connor, the well-known American writer identifies the meek as, “the terrible meek who like us are flawed, but are driven to live just lives.” 

 

Matthew 11: 28 is a comforting passage for those who seek meekness because Jesus not only recognizes our flaws and immaturity, but also promises to teach us how we can become meek.  He says, “Learn from me…”  He knows our tendency to get weighed down by our lack of progress or the heaviness of our responsibilities.  He reminds us that we’re not alone in our concerns whether they are for our families, ministries or our world.  We have serious issues to consider for sure, but if we listen to this gospel passage the overwhelming weight is not on our shoulders.  That’s a blessing. 

 

In the gospel Jesus draws an example from the farming practices of his day.  He says, “Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Those who were listening to him would have understood the terminology.  However, since we use modern equipment to do much of our farming tasks, Jesus’ example might need some explanation.  In Jesus’ time farm animals were used to plow the fields.  A farmer would bind a mother ox to a yoke.  Along-side the mother ox the farmer would also bind her young ox.   Each would be bound to a different yoke.  Since the yokes would be carefully and individually made, they would fit perfectly.  In this way the body of the young animal would be protected from injury.  It was only the mother ox that bore the weight of the yoke.  The young ox would travel with the mother learning from her.  Securely fastened the inexperienced ox would learn how to plow the fields so that one day the young ox too would reap a rich harvest.

 

Matthew reminds us that we have a master teacher, Jesus.  It is he who holds up our yokes for us.  His strength carries our burdens and makes them light.  His wisdom directs our steps and guides us. His promise to be with us encourages us to trust in the slow work of God as we flawed, but sincere disciples strive to make conscientious decisions and live just lives.

 

The meek don’t take the earth for granted. We know that this fragile earth and our mysterious universes teach us about God’s vision for us.  Hidden within the created world are secrets about God we still do not know or recognize.  No doubt that is why Jesus uses so many stories about nature to help us see more clearly what discipleship means.  The parables of the mustard seed, the lilies of the field and workers scattering and planting seeds, help us envision the reign of God: this “kindom” where God’s power and presence are experienced.  Reading, studying and praying with scripture guide our understanding and deepen our wisdom.  As we listen to scripture and to people of good will, we begin to see new ways to feed those who hunger for the Word of God and slake the thirst of those who seek pure water.

 

“Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart.”  This learning is a life-long project, but Meister Eckhart points us in the right direction.  He says a “God seed” has been planted in us even before we were born.  If we nourish this “God life” it will grow deep and strong.

 

The seed of God is in us.  Given an intelligent and hard-working farmer,

it will thrive and grow up into God, whose seed it is; and accordingly, its fruits will be God-nature.  Pear seeds grow into pear trees, nut seeds into

nut trees, and God seeds into God.  (2)

 


1.  Meister Eckhart is a 12th century Dominican saint, poet and mystics.


"Stories Seldom Heard" is a monthly article written by Sister Patricia Bruno, O.P.  Sister is a Dominican Sister of San Rafael, California.  This service is offered to the Christian community to enrich one's personal and spiritual life.  The articles can be used for individual or group reflection. 


If you would like to support this ministry, please send your contributions to Dominican Sisters of San Rafael, c/o Sister Patricia Bruno, O.P., 2517 Pine Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

Thank you.


Special thanks to Mary Ellen Green, and Maria Hetherton who faithfully edit these articles and to Bob McGrath whose generosity makes it possible for you to receive them.  To make changes or remove your name from “Stories Seldom Heard” mailing list, please contact me at robert.mcgrath@mgrc.com.

 

Thank you. Bob McGrath.


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