“The Holy Spirit sometimes calls upon us to transcend the logic of fairness and simple justice and rise to a level of interior spiritual combat at which we fight ourselves instead of fighting others.”
– Fr. Jacques Philippe, The Eight Doors to the Kingdom: Meditations on the Beatitudes, p. 114
There is a spirit of anger that is permeating our culture. Every time I step outside my house, I expect to encounter at least one person who will inexplicably project his ire on me. Often, it is on the road while I’m driving. Not long ago, I stopped at a stop sign, and the man behind me who had been tailgating me started honking his horn and flailing his arms. I thought, I have three small kids in this van and am obeying traffic laws, and you’re upset about that?
Sadly, we don’t even have to leave our homes to encounter such expressive violence. Lately, any time I hop on social media, I see dozens of angry and even spiteful rants from Facebook “friends” who are claiming to preach the truth. Instead, it is hotheaded, critical, and hateful venom spewed from viper’s mouths.
I notice this behavior, because I used to be among those who were constantly restless, irritable, and prone to explosion at the very least little imposition. Today, I step back and realize that God is calling me – and all of us – to a radically different response.
Beatitude of meekness
I was talking with a friend about this spiritual sickness in our society, which is a problem of hardness of heart. Most people with hardened hearts have been extremely wounded by betrayal or injustice. They have been mocked, judged, and even slandered. Their brokenness has been replaced by barriers to protect them from getting hurt.
Each of us has been wounded in some way. It’s easy to want to hide behind the façade of fury instead of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. What is the beatitude that opens our hearts to giving and receiving love? It’s meekness.
Meekness is the gift of tenderness, sensitivity, vulnerability, and receptivity. It opens the heart to accepting God’s grace of healing. But we cannot be concurrently meek and hateful. We have to look within at our own wounds, hand them to God wholeheartedly, and allow Him to heal us so that we can be agents of goodness, hope, and peace in the world.
The Golden Rule
As children, we learned one of the most important bible verses in the New Testament from Matthew 7:12: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” We knew it as The Golden Rule, and it’s invaluable to us as Christians, because the old law was “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” It was all about retaliation and retribution, done in the name of justice. But Jesus taught us that we are to treat others with kindness and respect, regardless of how others treat us.
I think of this when I am met with animosity. Unfortunately, I can end up being in the middle of a heated conversation and find that I’m the next target for a person’s “venting.” It would be seemingly justifiable for me to dish it back to them. But it’s important for me to instead step outside of my emotions and pray.
Fr. Jacques Philippe wrote that “meekness can be practiced only by letting ourselves be filled with it by God” through prayer (The Eight Doors to the Kingdom, p. 105). I cannot become an ambassador of peace if I am not immersing myself with God’s presence on a regular basis.
It’s spiritually unhealthy for us to join the ranks of those who are spewing vile judgments against those who have hurt them, whose beliefs or lifestyle differs from them, or who seem to be grave sinners in their eyes. Fr. Philippe believes that even justifiable anger can be tempered by the question, “What is the least violent, least destructive way of defending this good?” (p. 118)
Our Lady, Healer of Hearts
If the primary problem in our world today deals with hardness of heart, then how can we get to a place where our hearts are open to giving and receiving love? Basil Dannebohm, founder of The Society of Our Lady, Healer of Hearts, noticed that as he prayed to the Blessed Mother under this title, his heart became more receptive and he experienced interior peace.
According to those who have assisted Dannebohm with the development of this Marian ministry, it seems that Our Lady, Healer of Hearts is the appropriate counterpart to The Divine Mercy. We have the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which leads us to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, but what Marian title will grant us the graces to lead us to receiving God’s abundant mercy? It seems to be Our Lady, Healer of Hearts.
If we truly wish to love, we must begin with our own inner healing. If we turn to Our Lady, Healer of Hearts, we can obtain the strength and courage we need to approach verbal and physical assaults with meekness, because, as St. John of the Cross wrote, “The meek are those who know how to suffer their neighbor and themselves.”