Message from Focolare founder, Chiara Lubich, in the Word of Life for November. How timely!
THE SERMON on the Mount comes at the beginning of the mission of Jesus. It opens with the beatitudes. The third of the eight beatitudes is being proposed to us this month:
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land." -- Matthew 5:5
"What does it mean to be meek? It means that we do not become irritated in the face of evil, and that we do not allow ourselves to be carried away by violent emotions. Meek persons know how to control and curb their reactions, especially bursts of temper and anger. Meekness, however, has nothing to do with weakness or fear. It is not passive consent to evil or conspiracy. On the contrary, it requires great will power to replace feelings of resentment and revenge with a firm and calm attitude of respect for others."
"WITH THE BEATITUDE of meekness, Jesus is proposing a new kind of challenge: turn the other cheek, do good to those who mistreat you, and give your tunic to the one who wants your cloak. Meekness is able to win over evil by doing good, and to those who live it, Jesus makes a great promise:
"...they will inherit the land."
"The promise of land brings to mind another homeland, that which Jesus, in the first and last beatitudes, calls "the kingdom of heaven": the life of communion with God, the fullness of life that will never end.
"Those who live meekness are blessed even now, because even now they experience the possibility of changing the world around them, especially by changing how they relate to other people. In a society often ruled by violence, arrogance and injustice, they become a "sign of contradiction" and radiate justice, understanding, tolerance, gentleness and esteem for others.
While the meek are working to build up a society that is more just and more in tune with the Gospel, they are also preparing themselves to inherit the kingdom of heaven and to live "in a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev. 21:1).
"Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land."
"To know how to live this Word of Life it would be enough to look at the way Jesus lived, he who said: "Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart" (Mt 11:29). In him meekness appears as a quality of love. And true love, which the Holy Spirit pours into our hearts, is in fact "joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal 5:22).
"Yes, whoever loves is not agitated, is not unduly hasty, does not offend, does not hurt others. Those who love control themselves and are gentle, meek and patient.
The "art of loving" is found everywhere in the Gospel. Many children have learned this art. I know that they play with a special cube that they call the "cube of love." Each side of this cube has a phrase written on it suggesting a way to love following Jesus' example: to love everyone, to love one another, to be the first in loving, to share the other's joy or hurt, to love Jesus in the other, and to love our enemies. At the beginning of the day they roll the cube [like rolling dice] and they try to put into practice the phrase that turns up. Then they share their experiences on how they tried to do so.
"Francis is a three-year-old boy who lives in Caracas, Venezuela. One day his father came home quite upset because he had had an argument with a colleague at work. He told his wife about it and she too became angry with that colleague. Francis went into his room and came back with the cube. "Roll the cube of love!" he told his parents. They rolled it together. "Love your enemy" turned up. His parents knew what they had to do.
"If we stop to think about it, we will realize that there are people who live exemplary meekness in their daily life. Through their meekness, great figures who have departed from this earthly life--John Paul II, Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Frere Roger Schutz, for example--made a tremendous difference in society and in history, and they continue to urge us along in our journey."
"Beloved, we are God's children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as [Christ] is pure." -- 1 John 3:2-3
Fr J gave a great sermon this morning. Yes, we want to do God's will; but we often fail miserably, then we think that perhaps sainthood is totally unattainable for people like us. In fact, it's attainable for most of us, with God's grace and our continued effort. Fr J gave a great explanation of John's letter, how we are already God's children, how we don't know, but we know that one day we'll be like God, and "Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as [Christ] is pure."
Just wasted a day, lost some temper and perhaps some goodwill after almost two weeks of attempted meekness over a silly issue online -- where someone kept insisting that NOT holding hands during the "Our Father" prayer is a matter of Catholic conscience. He and a few others kept harping on this matter not just for a day or two, but over the past few weeks, right up till today, even after Fr D's intervention ("How much longer are we going to assist at the debate over holding hands, bowing and all the rest? I wonder if all the church in Singapore needs is debating this. I wished other issues aroused at least the same interest.")! Truly unbelievable!
And after a simple Google search on "rubrics" and "hand holding", it turned out that the catalyst that started the conversation and petty debate -- a supposed ban on hand holding in the Philippines (reported by Manila Post on Oct 5) -- did not happen at all. (See Oct 6 CBCPNews report, No ban on 'Our Father' holding hands".)
Nouwen's reading for today, Going to the Margins of the Church, is also timely. Perhaps it's time for me to start doing so:
"Those who are marginal in the world are central in the Church, and that is how it is supposed to be! Thus we are called as members of the Church to keep going to the margins of our society. The homeless, the starving, parentless children, people with AIDS, our emotionally disturbed brothers and sisters - they require our first attention.
"We can trust that when we reach out with all our energy to the margins of our society we will discover that petty disagreements, fruitless debates, and paralysing rivalries will recede and gradually vanish. The Church will always be renewed when our attention shifts from ourselves to those who need our care. The blessing of Jesus always comes to us through the poor. The most remarkable experience of those who work with the poor is that, in the end, the poor give more than they receive. They give food to us."
Finally found the Church's official stand on holding, according to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), promulgated in 2000 and issued with U.S. adaptions in 2002:
"The GIRM is mute on what hand gestures should be used in the U.S. for the "Our Father" prayer; it's up to the parish. Holding hands is allowed as a sign of our unity. The Eucharist gifts us with unity, so such a visible sign is very appropriate, but it should never be forced on those who feel uncomfortable with physically touching strangers.
"After the Sign of Peace, the priests break the bread and we pray together: "Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world: have mercy on us...." Now we kneel until we stand up to receive communion.
"The communion song is not the time for private prayer. Kneeling is no longer required."
More details in The Correct Posture at Mass and USCCB's General Instruction of the Roman Missal.