THE MEEK WILL SURVIVE
by: Rev. Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R.
...from the SFSpirit Archives, February 2001...
Scripture says that the meek will inherit the earth. Such a promise strikes our ears as rather grandiose, like hyperbole or grand overstatement. It obviously does not mean the earth in which we live; it means the heavenly world. Our reward for meekness involves spiritual realms, blessings that will last forever.
However, the meek do in a strange way inherit a sizable portion of this world. Do you know how? The meek survive. Did anybody ever say to you, “Oh, you’re a survivor”? That means you have a basic kind of meekness. No matter what happens, no matter how terrible things turn out to be, no matter what disasters befall you, you keep trying to find the will of God in those circumstances and keep going.
If you’re a believer who is struggling to make progress in the spiritual life, you already have a kind of meekness or you wouldn’t still be trying. No matter what the odds, God will give you the grace to fight another battle, until the day is finished and the race is run.
Those who are not meek often die of rage or frightful disappointment or sheer desperation. Because they can’t tolerate things as they are, they may violate the notion of meekness every way they turn. Unwilling to find the hand of God leading them through the worst of situations, they may become inordinate in their anger. My friend Msgr. Arthur Rojek, who survived four and a half years in Auschwitz and Dachau, once told me that many prisoners who did not survive died of sheer rage.
Those who die of rage do not have the meekness of Christ, who walked through this earth as the meekest of men even though he was also God. Jesus saw his life’s work destroyed on Thursday night but resolutely went on to Calvary. Meek were the last words Jesus spoke from the cross: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do .... Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Here we find meekness in its purest form: the meekness of God.
In whatever small and homely ways God may lead the meek, he often leads them to do a good in a place where no one else will or can do that particular good. I’ve chosen one man to illustrate this principle, someone who had a profound effect on the history of the world and of the Church. He is an unknown man whose influence is still being felt long after his death.
This man appeared on the scene during an especially difficult time in his native land. By means of a brutal military occupation, the Nazi forces were doing everything possible to obliterate all culture and religion in Poland. In some parts of the country, children were not allowed to attend school or any religious services. They were manipulated to become mindless slaves of the state, pawns of the government.
Cardinal Glemp, the Archbishop of Warsaw, has recounted his own childhood memories from those grim years. As a boy he went to Mass five times in five years. He had no education at all apart from what his mother gave him at home (against the express orders of the state). In such a bleak time, one man decided to start a discussion group on the writings of the Fathers of the Church and the mystics. He wasn’t a theologian or a priest or a religious. He was a tailor by trade, a man named Jan Tyranowski who earned his living by sewing clothes and making suits. He actually had a limited formal education, but he could read the great classics and he became an expert on the writings of St. John of the Cross.
Realizing the people’s need for culture, Tyranowski introduced young people to a theater group where the actors and audience were all one and the same. They met in utter secrecy under cover of darkness because the Nazis had absolutely forbidden public assemblies. Apart from some limited worship services, the Polish people were allowed to congregate only when they shared meals.
Even though it was an extremely dangerous venture, Tyranowski repeatedly risked his life by recruiting people to study and learn the art of meditation. One day the tailor walked up to a young man in the back of a church and introduced himself. Tyranowski said, “I’ve noticed you here at church a few times. Would you like to come to our discussion group?”
The young man was frightened, and rightly so. This stranger could be a Nazi spy or a member of the Gestapo, and so he treated Tyranowski’s invitation with apparent indifference. But the hero of our story would not give up. Since they lived in the same neighborhood, the tailor insisted on walking home with his potential recruit. Finally, because he had been importuned, the young man agreed to go. After all, he had a strong interest in the theater, as well as in the mystics.
As he studied, his life began to change. Under the threat of death from the Nazis, this young man named Karol went on to study for the priesthood. He eventually became Pope John Paul II. His vocation came because an apparently very ordinary man, a tailor, was willing to discover in that dreadful situation an opportunity to do something good. Rather than despair, the tailor had the courage to create change. Tyranowski offered light and illuminated the way for this young man who had so much potential.
Some Poles risked their lives through armed resistance. But blowing up trains and bridges wasn’t Tyranowski’s style. This meek tailor didn’t believe in violence. Rather he taught people; he opened their minds; he planted seeds in the midst of a harsh winter. He continued doing good when there was absolutely no hope in sight.
Tyranowski didn’t waste his energy complaining to God because a brutal injustice had fallen upon his homeland. He didn’t pine away with fear and trembling. This meek man ran a discussion group-a very little item on the stage of world events. And through it, he changed the history of the Church and the world.
The election of a Polish pope, especially a man of such intelligence and personal strength, has opened the door for momentous world reform. Pope John Paul II has in all meekness confronted the fiercest totalitarian governments and insisted that their citizens be granted freedom and basic human rights. Now that the Iron Curtain has finally been torn down, the pope continues to challenge the forces of evil in the world at every turn.
Without guns, without force, with no strength except that which derives from God’s grace, Pope John Paul II has shaped world history. Why? Because there was once a tailor who was a meek man, who found God’s will right where he was. Tyranowski died when Karol Wojtyla was doing his graduate studies in Rome. He never had the slightest notion that his simple invitation would so dramatically affect the history of the world.
What if we were able to meet Tyranowski and credit him with influencing John Paul II to become a priest? I believe the tailor would laugh or shrug his shoulders and say, “Nobody becomes a priest unless God calls him. I didn’t give out vocations; I just ran a discussion group.” What if we could point.
out to him that this scholarly young man wrote his doctoral dissertation on St. John of the Cross because of the discussion group? Since Tyranowski was a meek man, I believe he would again shrug his shoulders and say, “Oh, Karol would have heard of St. John of the Cross someplace else.”
In our daily lives, in our struggles, in our failures, in our good deeds, and even in repenting for our frequent sins, may God give us mercy and meekness by the grace of the Holy Spirit.
And may he grant us the gift of fidelity to know that even though no one may recognize what we do, though we may live and die in utter obscurity, if we are meek we shall indeed inherit the earth and the heavens.
Condensed from Heaven in Our Hands by Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R. © 1994 . Published by Servant Publications
From the Archives - SF Spirit - February 2001.