Strong and Gentle

The First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C)

The tie in between today’s readings: Meekness

Psalm 29:1-11Isaiah 42:1-7Titus 2:11-14Luke 3:15-22

Psalm 29 opens with the Lord in His strength and glory. With a word of His mouth the creation shakes, quakes, and breaks. He can rip, strip, and flip anything He wishes without breaking a sweat. When it comes to judgment, WATCH OUT! Our God is consuming fire. Yet, in verse 11, the Psalmist shows the Almighty as tender and nurturing. Surprising contradiction? Not if you understand meekness.  Meekness is a wild mustang under bridle, the linebacker holding his position while aching to blitz, and the bug you put outside instead of crushing it with your shoe. In ancient times, it was a desired attribute of a king and so it is with our Sovereign God because meekness is power under control.

Today, we usually think of a meek person as a wimp. Nobody would call a guy who could fast for forty days in a desert, eject the money changers from the temple (twice), or go toe to toe with the authorities of His day a sissy. But meek is exactly how Jesus described Himself. You cannot be meek unless you are strong. Meekness is the active and deliberate acceptance of undesirable circumstances by an individual for the sake of the bigger picture. If we use Isaiah 42 as a guide, it is a subtle mix of wisdom, humility, and self-control. Bravo for Jesus the meek and mighty, but how does it apply to ordinary me?

We are to be like Him. Meekness is a characteristic of the Holy Spirit acting in a person’s life. A meek person can lead as well as gladly serve. Forgive his trespasser (debtor) as well as be forgiven. Step in with boldness when the situation calls for it and be humble at the same time. Quick to hear but measured to give an opinion. Slow to anger but rushes to defend the oppressed. Not quarrelsome, but firm in purpose. Those are pretty good qualities for the future inheritors of the earth.

We can use John the Baptist in our reading in Luke today as an example of meekness in action. John was bold in his mission as the messenger but kept his perspective that he was in the employ of the Greater One. He served at the pleasure of the Master of whom he was not worthy to untie His sandal. He described himself at the pinnacle of his ministry as a friend of the bridegroom. “He must increase while I must decrease “(John 3:28-30). He did decrease. Thrown in jail and meaninglessly executed Jesus the bridegroom praised him as the greatest of the prophets.  Jesus calls upon us to the “take up your cross” challenge of meekness: 

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29TakeMy yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle (meek) and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”…Matt 11:28-30.

Strive for meekness. That’s where the real strength is.

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