When I was an undergraduate at the University of Dallas in the 1990s, the city of Waco was known for three things: 1) Baylor University, 2) fire ants, and 3) Branch Davidians. Fast forward 20 years and suddenly Waco is the center of the “home improvement” movement, with Chip and Joanna Gaines basically transforming Waco into an interior design destination city. I had never seen their show, “Fixer Upper,” until recently. According to the description of the show, “the couple turn dilapidated but potential-rich houses into showplaces that are helping revitalize whole neighborhoods throughout central Texas.” Moreover, the couple “also act as part-time counselors to clients who can’t see a structure’s beauty beyond the blemishes. Combined, Chip and Joanna save homes that look hopeless, renovating the imperfect, and revealing them as what they were always intended to be.” Chip and Joanna are very talented people, and it’s amazing to see how they are able to turn a building that is an absolute mess into a beautiful home that is a joy to live in.
“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.” We don’t usually think of meekness as a desirable trait. Maybe because it sounds so much like “weakness” that we associate it with being a pushover. But according to Fr. Simeon Leiva-Merikakis, meekness is related to the Greek word for the virtue of “ever-vigilant openness, a disposition of goodwill that is always ready to encounter a situation with a view to building it up and re-creating it.” Like Joanna and Chip, who find houses that are total wrecks and use their gifts to recreate them, the meek are those who find themselves in the midst of the messiness of the world and become vessels of the Christ’s goodness, mercy, and power – through which the world is transformed.
The meek are not revolutionaries in the conventional sense. They do not hatch plans by which they seize the levers of power in order to impose their will on others. As disciples they take seriously the words of Our Lord: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart. And you will find rest for yourselves.” The Lord redeemed the world and began the great work of renewal not by razing civilization to the ground, raining the fires of destruction upon the earth, but through a life of sacrifice offered for us, that culminated on Calvary. Thus, to be truly meek requires great courage because it is to remain steadfast in the midst of a world that does not value the gospel of Christ. The yoke of Christ is the cross that comes with being honest, generous, dutiful/faithful, and pious. It is the cross that comes with being chaste according to our state in life (single, married, consecrated), and which comes with being merciful, and humble. Learning from the Master, the meek rejoice in the truth, and burn with compassion for those trapped in darkness. Rather than take the wrecking ball to society, they patiently and courageously do the unglamorous work of loving God and neighbor in the midst of the wreckage. Thus, the meek become the instruments of the Lord in building up the Kingdom of God which is their inheritance.
Servant of God Dorothy Day used to get annoyed with many of the young people who joined the Catholic Worker movement. She found that they gladly spent hours passionately debating how to change the world, but when it came time to prepare the soup for distribution to the hungry, they refused to chop the vegetables. The meek understand that it is in chopping the vegetables that the world is truly changed.