Contemporary idea: Being free from all constraints
Christian definition: To choose to place your life in submission to the will of God.
Intrusive X-P comment: The true yoke of slavery is the burden of sin, which could be enjoyable and thus feel "liberating"
the secret in discovering the self
is in discovering the other
for the self is empty
mysterious and elusive
when you search for it
search instead for the other
for the other is what we live for
transparent and radiant and full
they are all around us
waiting for us to discover them
to discover ourselves
Great men never think they are great, small men never they they are small. - Anon.
(from Companion, Shepherd's Voice)
Like love and discipline, meekness and aggressiveness are seemingly contradictory traits but upon closer look are actually complementary. Here, we discuss meekness and zeal as another paradoxical facet, among many, of the Christian life.
This talk seeks to answer the question: What is God's ideal or definition of greatness?
'Great' in the eyes of God are those who are able to lower themselves in the spirit of love and service. This is hinged on two passages:
Mt. 18:1-4: "If you cannot be like his little child, you cannot enter heaven for heaven belongs to such as these."
The context here is: Jesus addresses a community faced with division, as though to say Christian unity necessitates the willingness to put ourselves in a lower position if the situation calls for it. Becoming "child-like," therefore, does not mean being childish but the ability to lower ourselves in the genuine spirit of service. "Child-like" refers to the position of the child (lowest) during Biblical times, not the qualities of the child, which are both pleasant (charming, etc.) and unpleasant (selfish, bratty, etc.).
Phil. 2:1-11 refers to those who choose the position of powerlessness - servanthood for the sake of God and His people. (The original word is actually 'slave.') In Christian service, there is this important element of choice. We do things out of our own personal volition.
Contrast these to worldly values, the gospel of selfism: 'Plan your career.' 'Be your own boss.' 'You must look out for Number 1.' 'Me first.' 'Have it your way. Nobody tells me what to do.'
Serving the Lord is being led to where you'd rather not go, and this necessitates meekness. This also necessitates a paradigm shift in one's values: Not looking to one's own interest. As Paul in his letter to the Corinthians illustrate, "Christian love flows from the free disposition to unseat concern for self as the driving force of life and replace it with a practical concern for others." (Jerome Bible Commentary)
What is meekness?
Etymology: Hebrew anavah, which has two senses: 1. humility and 2. meekness
Meekness is related to humility, but meekness is different because it is applied in the context of community relations. Humility is "the sober way of assessing self-worth." Meekness is "a way of behaving based on an internal disposition."
Because it is quite hard to understand, we look up to Jesus as a good example of meekness, not to the Father, who is hard to imagine as being meek, but more of someone who's aggressive.
Meekness is not timidity, or a weak kind of gentleness, or being a pushover.
Meekness is born of a voluntary desire to serve, be a servant in the context of a community united in love and service for one another.
Attributes of meekness
1. Respectful, courteous to all
- the opposite of this is arrogance, hostile/insulting (hot arrogance) and aloof and condescending (cold arrogance)
- not opinionated (not open to evaluation and input of others)
- not rigid (not demanding on one's preferences)
- not fearful of trusting one's life to others who are worthy
4. Not hostile in the face of personal attack or abuse
- Read the example of Miriam and Aaron's grumbling vs. Moses, who entrusts things in the hands of God
(Christians always choose the peaceful path. 'Do not brood over injury.')
- Christians are not quarrelsome but correct mistakes with gentleness.
5. Leading as a servant
Meekness is not just for subordinates but most especially for leaders. Meekness means not being power-hungry or out to glorify self but after the good of others.
Root of Meekness
The root of meekness is brokenness, not in the sense of being a broken or crushed man but in the sense of a 'broken horse,' in human terms, broken from being independent and self-willed.
Brokenness in terms of self-will - one does not insist on one's own ways or preferences.
Brokenness in terms of wildness - one does not react by impulse, fear or anger. There is a more well thought-out response instead of an unthinking reaction.
What is zeal?
Again we look to Jesus for example: In Mt. 21:1-13, the Palm Sunday, Jesus comes in peace (v. 1-11), but a few verses after, He also cleanses the temple (v. 12-13).
In Jn 2: 17, He quotes Ps. 69 ("Zeal for your house consumes me!")
Zeal is not mere enthusiasm but aggressive dedication to something or someone.
How do we combine meekness and zeal?
These seemingly opposite forms of behavior actually work in concert.
Like in the exercise of Love and Discipline, the exercise of meekness and zeal requires wisdom and experience.
Again, we look to the example of Jesus: It depends on the circumstances and whether we are in position of authority.
This is not being schizophrenic.
Read the example of Paul in his letter to the Corinthians. (Remember, he also didn't even hesitate saying "foolish Galatians!" in his letter to the Galatians. Other translations: "stupid Galatians!")
The key to understanding this is that meekness and zeal are not commandments (absolute requirements) but character traits that must be developed.
Guide questions to help us sort it out.
1. Whose rights are at stake?
If it is ours, we lean towards meekness/submissiveness.
If it is God's or others', aggressiveness.
2. Are we in an authority position in the situation?
If yes, we are obliged to be aggressive.
If no, we turn to proper authority.
3. What will best serve the Lord and His people? What will be most helpful?
This requires wisdom/discernment and experience.
Ask: What would Jesus do?
Read: John Keating's Strength under Control (Word of Joy Foundation)
Important note: The above is based on a Ligaya ng Panginoon material. For specific Biblical references and details of this talk, permission from Ligaya is requested.
Coming up: Joy and Sorrow
Fr. J.: "If it's a matter of conscience, don't think twice!" Thinking twice leads to rationalization.
I don't dream much when I sleep and in the few times that I do, I dream about things I couldn't remember much.
But this one dream of another person is way too different. I think it's more of a vision than a dream. The writer saw images telling him about the things God doesn't like about him. It was disturbing to the core of his being.
My Concealed Iniquities
(to be read at a meditative, leisurely pace.)
I'm not proud of them, let's make that very, very clear at the outset.
But God does reveal our hidden sins. He reveals our sins if (1) we want them to be made known to us personally, and (2) God grants the grace for it according to His plans. We're talking here about hidden sins, so we don't include the sins that we are aware of, the ones that are deliberate and thus more obvious to us.
I had two instances where condition (1) happened. One night before retiring to bed, I asked the Lord to reveal to me in a dream one sin which I was not aware of that offended Him so much. And which is probably causing me a little physical illness.
I was surprised at the specificity of the answer: God revealed He is offended when I don't share my food whenever I eat snacks in the office. It is a very simple commandment of love which I am breaking, it was made known to me. I love my little snacks so much that I wouldn't want to share them with anyone. Clearly, even just a little selfishness has no place in God's generous heart.
In a retreat given to our community by G.G., we were made to list down individually the things God likes in each of us best and the things God doesn't like in us most. This was in order that each may know "how I am known".
Surprise! God loves it the most, I have found, when I weigh carefully the pros and cons of anything I do particularly in terms of whether this or that would offend God or not. But it also infuriates God, too, whenever I make rash judgments or presume things as though I were in the know. Understandably, the latter leads to unfair accusations, or even to the fatal sin of bearing false witness. Put simply, I tend to have a judgmental attitude, my own opinion I tend to view as gospel truth. I am quite opinionated, period.
The retreat master noticed that usually our best-and-worst traits are diametrically opposed, a proof that it was God whom we have heard. It's an Ignatian idea, she said. She advised us to confess to a priest the negative things about us that we've listed down. A few couldn't help but break down in tears when they learned about their hidden sins.
And now for No. (2). On the night that I made a little commitment with God in my community, I was given a grace which I treasure most - a revelation of four more personal flaws I believe God wants me to confront little by little. He gave this revelation in a dream where I was with friends leisurely traveling on foot on the road to what looked like Baguio, sunny but cool weather, pine trees, sloping walkways. At one point I found myself traveling the road all of a sudden all by myself, as though to point out that life's journey is ultimately our own personal journey; others couldn't possibly take it in our place. And that at the end of the day, faith shall always be a matter between us and our God alone.
As I was walking by myself in that leisurely pace, a sequence of four panels of roadside images appeared. It was as though I stumbled into a theme park of allegories, symbols, metaphors specially tailored for me, almost like a Hieronymus Bosch triptych. The first showed a little stream bounded by the greenest shrubs and trees, a life-giving stream with many hoses that feed into another, one after another, downstream.
Then suddenly, the water-flow stops and the lush and vibrant scenery cuts into the second panel, a surprisingly bare, arid, hot and rough (sandy and rocky) cavern the color of beige which gaped at me like an ugly monster.
The next panel was an image of a thick, high wall built of roughly hewn limestone.
The last panel in this sequence was another similar structure but with a conspicuous sign that was reversed, as though I suddenly had dyslexia. The road sign was the name of a resort town in reverse.
I was crossing the first panel feeling refreshed but getting bored through time. I interpret this dream sequence as speaking about my tendency towards complacency, the tendency to get bored and become impatient of doing good.
The second, where I was feeling dry and desolate, I understand to speak about my tendency to give in to self-pity and depression in trying times. I tend to linger on the negatives longer than necessary.
Which likewise logically leads to the third, an impregnable wall which represents my unapproachable self. In retrospect, I realize how much carefully I choose the people I deal with in life, how I close myself in a shell - or put up a wall of defense - when it comes to people I don't like, how I surround myself with a wall. Instead of becoming a channel of grace, I tend to build a wall.
In the last panel, I am being giddy with excitement, raring to have fun. But the trouble is, I am getting excited about a distorted kind of fun, as the reversed road-sign suggests. Indeed, I'm someone who finds keen interest in a whole spectrum of artistic endeavors that may not be exactly beautiful in the eyes of the Lord.
These unexpected realizations stunned me upon waking up. Yet the images themselves were all gentle, never accusatory. They brought me into a rather long, reflective pause where I tried to ponder and process what has just been revealed to me, a heady mix of sorrow for sin, gratefulness at the revelation of my neatly concealed iniquities, concealed perhaps in my subconscious, and the resolve to straighten out the kinks in my life even more, even though slow by slow, little by little.
hurrying will get you nowhere
in traversing spiritual distances
dwelling and lingering
are forms of speed and motion
it is good for the soul in search of itself
to achieve peace by not moving
you get to more places by staying put
you discern your soul only in silence
often motion can be achieved by not moving
and moving fast is not moving at all
progress can be a form of regression
when time stands still, the spirit grows
the book -
eastwind, the art of living, p50 [x741]
as morning dew seeks parched earth
as spring sun seeks struggling seedling
the Lord seeks you
seek the Lord in return
as parched earth seeks morning dew
as struggling seedling seeks spring sun
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