OCTOBER 14, 2009- ROMANS 2: 1-11; LUKE 11:42-48

 

LEARN OF ME FOR I AM MEEK AND HUMBLE OF HEART. (Mt :29) The Gospel passage we have just heard surely presents a feature of Jesus’ character that appears to be anything but meek lowliness. The carping resistance offered to his teaching by the Pharisees brought out another side of his character. Our Lord sharply accosts his critics as he aggressively denounces their ambitious pride. He does not hesitate to use blunt speech to their face, declaring them to be hypocrites while unmasking the falsity of their show of religious observance. He here imitates his ancestor David who is described as a paragon of meekness itself in Psalm 131 where we read: “Remember, O Lord, David and all his meekness”, though elsewhere we hear that his anger could flare up in fierce attacks on his adversaries. For in the Book of Kings it is reported how, upon finding his enemies encamped in the Negeb, “David struck them down from dawn till evening, putting them under the ban.” (1 K 27:17) Already in Israel wise men considered how to interpret such seeming contradictions as these. Perhaps the clue to reconciling such divergent characteristics the teaching of Ecclesiastes proves helpful: “There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven.” Behavior that is reprehensible in some circumstances is called for under other conditions. Did not Ben Sirach in commenting on the works of creation observe that “All things are twofold, one opposite the other. Nothing did God make defective; one thing gives solidity to the good of another. Who shall be filled with beholding God’s glory?”(42:24,25) Many centuries later modern science has been able to show in great detail how true it is that life takes its movement between the positive and negative poles of the electrical charges of the chemicals function in each cell of the human body. The truth he stress applies not only to human relations and social functioning but also to the operations of the physical organism, in all its parts. Meekness and anger, like negative and positive electrical charges in our bodily chemistry, represent the polarities within which human virtue operates.

 

Jesus teaches us by his example that meekness is not weakness; rather, only the strong in confidence can practice the patience under provocation that manifests itself as gentle meekness. Aggressive action performed in anger in the face of injustice that brings harm or oppresses the defenseless is paired with true meekness. Only when we shall have learned to express anger appropriately, proportioned to the disorder it opposes can we practice the patience of true meekness. The gentleness of which Jesus is the model is not shy diffidence but rather a loving endurance of objectionable behavior for the sake of the real welfare of the offending other.

 

Aware of the heavy demands of this Christian patience, Saint Paul in today’s first reading reminds us that God Himself demonstrates by his governance of the world that love itself is double in its expression, though simple in its source is double in its effect. He writes that God “will repay every one for what he has done: eternal life to those who strive for glory, honor, and immorality by patiently doing right, wrath and fury to those who selfishly disobey the truth.” (Romans 2:7,8) By the grace of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus imparts to us with his holy body and blood at this Eucharist, may each of us grow in that pure love that is strong enough to imitate our Lord who is truly meek and humble of heart. &  


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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