As we find ourselves now on the Second Sunday of Advent, we will explore how the second two beatitudes can help our hearts become more receptive to the coming of Jesus at Christmas.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” – Matthew 5:5

Meekness is a disposition that restrains our desire to overcome obstacles blocking our access to pleasure. For example, we may use our anger as motivation to defeat what is in our way. A sense of power or a competitive nature also inclines us to go after what we want or to keep someone else from having it. While these human tendencies are normal and not sinful in and of themselves (life demands that we must surmount certain difficulties to achieve inherently good things) they can quickly be taken too far when left unchecked. Meekness, then, calls for gentleness, patience, and self-control regarding feelings of anger, power, and competition. A meek person is not void of these feelings, but they are interiorly detached from them, like the poor in spirit are detached from material wealth, whether or not they have it.

The world equates meekness with weakness, which is not so in our Christian understanding. Weakness is allowing ourselves to be doormats or to cower in fear when faced with injustice. Fear actually makes a person weak as he spends energy trying to control his environment or his preferred outcomes in situations. Meekness is knowing that our earthly power can only take us so far, that there is always someone or something more powerful, and knowing that we need not fear anything because the most powerful being of all is God. Cultivating meekness enables us to let go of the need to control things, knowing that, ultimately, God is in control anyway. Picture a child who does not need to be anxious about what might happen to him when he goes out into the world, trusting that he will be okay, so long as he keeps hold of his father’s protective hand.

The promise associated with meekness is to inherit the earth. Like other beatitudes, it seems paradoxical to reward surrendering power and control with something earthly. However, it refers to the spiritual realities we can still experience in our earthly lives. Recall the Hebrews being led to the Promised Land, which was described as the “land of milk and honey.” In other words, your meekness will earn you earthly peace, sweetness, and abundance. The earthly inheritance also means that in your meekness, any temporal difficulty you experience will eventually turn out well because you’ve handed it all over to God’s control. When we step aside and allow him to be in control, it always ends better than we could have figured out for ourselves.

Again, Jesus and Mary perfectly exemplify the beatitude of being meek. First, the all-powerful and almighty God came to us in human form as an infant. He was still God, but he humbled himself to the care of others. Again, this is not a weakness of God’s, but a demonstration of meekness and how to surrender ourselves to the situation with complete trust. Jesus also demonstrated profound meekness at his crucifixion. As God, of course, he had the power to take himself down from the cross, but he surrendered that power knowing that the plan of salvation would triumph. His persecutors mocked him, thinking they had finally won, but as we know, God always wins in the end, and there was no real and lasting power exerted over our Lord. Mary’s perfect expression of meekness was at the Annunciation, when she responded to the angel, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done unto me according to thy word,” (Lk 1:38). Mary’s natural disposition was of meekness, knowing that God was in control of everything and all would be well. She had the free will to say “no,” but instead, she surrendered any personal control of her own life to be God’s instrument as he saw fit.

Where can you let go of the need to control something in your life and surrender it entirely to God, knowing that it will turn out better under his power than what you imagined?

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” – Matthew 5:6

A desire for justice, a synonym for righteousness, constantly cries out from the human heart. We see it in children when they declare, “That’s not fair!” and as adults when we select the causes for which we fight. These days, demands are made in the name of “social justice,” but they fall on a spectrum in which one person’s understanding of justice directly contradicts another person’s opinion. We need to see that good is actually a hierarchy, and, while we may be fighting for an objective good, we fail to see another higher good. We are also prone to focusing on self-centered justice instead of justice for our neighbor. Picture a brother or sister insisting that another sibling takes the larger slice of cake out of a sense of justice.

The meaning of righteousness as a beatitude is that the ultimate justice lies in the proper relationship between God and man. In seeking righteousness, a person seeks to grow in virtue because it roots out sin and strengthens his relationship with God, opening the person to a more profound love of God and love of neighbor. Likewise, a person ought to desire that his neighbors also grow in virtue for the benefit of their own relationship with God and others. So, this understanding of justice has nothing to do with us versus them or me versus you, but it has everything to do with humanity in unity with God, which is the ultimate good in the hierarchy of goods. Imagine, for a moment, a world that possesses this form of perfect justice in virtue. There would not be anything left to disagree or fight about.

Jesus promises that we will be satisfied. We hunger and thirst for this righteousness because our desire for it is palpable. Food and drink alleviate the discomfort of hunger and thirst in our bodies. Righteousness and justice eliminate the discomfort of restlessness in our souls when we see the activity and effects of sin over virtue. I asked you to imagine a world that possesses perfect justice described above. That world exists and is called Heaven. Whether or not any perceived justice is attained here on earth, the time will come when those who find themselves in right relationship with God and others, will be in Heaven, and those who do not will find themselves in Hell. Because of this, you need not worry too much about injustices committed against you. Your primary focus while you are here is not how you are treated, but how you love God and your neighbor. The rest will work itself out in the end and you will be satisfied, as promised.

In his book, Heart of the Gospel, Fr. Sebastian Walshe presents St. Teresa of Calcutta as an example of how to live out this beatitude well on earth. Mother Teresa witnessed and recognized the grave injustices suffered by the poorest of the poor in Calcutta. She did not rally a demonstration, nor did she demand civic leaders implement policies. Instead, the first thing she did was to find one single person to help and to be a witness to the love of Jesus Christ. Then, she went out and found another. This is the proper demonstration of justice with regard to right relationship with God and with others. This Advent, identify one single act you can do that produces the fruit of authentic and meaningful justice. Then, resolve to build on that one act.

Find Chaplets for Advent here.

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