Blessed Are the Meek

The third Beatitude is Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). Faith in God gives us an inner strength and peace to remain faithful in life’s ups and downs even if others are against us: “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31). This is the faith born of love that leads to holiness that can endure all things without seeking revenge or repaying evil for evil (see Romans 12:17,19). The meek are gentle and patient, and slow to anger even when provoked. They act with humble charity and patience with others. They imitate Christ, who is meek and humble of heart. Heaven is their reward.

Our Lord links this beatitude to the 5th Commandment:

“You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22).

Our Lord raises the 5th Commandment to a higher level: just getting angry with another or name-calling makes us liable to the hell of fire. Have you ever gotten angry with someone? Ever called someone “fool”… or something worse? These actions are harmful because they produce hatred that kill relationships: a kind of spiritual murder.

Suppose you have done a lot of good in your life, but someone hates your guts due to your anger and verbal abuse toward him. The other person also has lived a good life, not doing anything wrong, he just hurts from all the anger and abuse he experienced from you. Then you both die and go before our Lord in the Judgment Seat. Our Lord looks to you and is ready to let you into heaven when the other person pipes up: “No! Lord if you let him in, I don’t want to go. I can’t stand the pain of having this fellow with me for all eternity.” So, what is our Lord to do? If he lets you into heaven, then the person you hurt won’t go; if he goes then you don’t. That’s the dilemma. That is why our Lord continues:

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar [in heaven] and go; first be reconciled to your brother [on earth], and then come and offer your gift. Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:23-26).

The Church has always applied this prison and hell of fire to Purgatory, to purify those who fail to forgive (see Matthew 18:23-35) or who cause others to reject God (sin); this is scandal—any action that “kills” the spirit of another (see CCC 2284). Jesus told us: “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!” (Luke 17:1).

Purgatory gives us an opportunity to heal the hurts we have caused in others; much like the Good Thief did alongside our Lord on the Cross. Think of all the hurts he caused by his stealing, yet our Lord allows him to make up for those hurts by offering his sufferings for the persons he has hurt. The Good Thief then hears from Jesus: “today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43).

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Father John Waiss is the pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church in Chicago, Illinois. He is also a member of Opus Dei, the prelature founded by St. Josemaria Escriva.