Today, May 21, is Day Eight of our Pentecost Novena — or nine days of prayer — led by Bishop Earl Boyea with today’s meditation dwelling upon another of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: Gentleness. Here is what Bishop Boyea has to say:
Miriam was suddenly afflicted with leprosy. What had happened? Miriam and her brother Aaron were terribly jealous of their brother, Moses. They said to one another, “Is it through Moses alone that the Lord has spoken? Has he not spoken through us also?” So, they created rumors about their brother and complained even about Moses’ wife, who was a foreigner. God summoned Miriam and Aaron and Moses to the meeting tent and told the complainers that Moses was his friend and that they should not have stirred up opposition to him. The next thing you know, Miriam had leprosy. The Book of Numbers (12:3) tells us: “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than anyone else on earth.” The better translation for humble here is that Moses was gentle.
We need to be clear what we mean by this term, “gentleness”. Some people might think this means we should be soft or weak. That is not at all what this word means. Rather, gentleness means that we are free of arrogance or impatience or anger or jealousy when we look upon another human being. It is the kind of gentleness spoken of by Jesus when he said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and meek of heart” (Mt 11:29) and when he said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Mt 5:5). Jesus was no wimp and neither was Moses.
How will the Holy Spirit help us to live this strong gentleness? I believe there are three ways. First, when Miriam suddenly got leprosy, Moses could have told his sister that she got what she deserved by rebelling against Moses’ authority. In fact, God had told Aaron and Miriam, “Why do you not fear to speak against my servant Moses?” But Moses showed true gentleness with strength and said to God, “Please, not this! Please, heal her!” And eventually she was healed. Moses did not cling to anger but instead showed the very mercy and gentleness of God. The Holy Spirit will help us to let go of anger and be gentle with those who personally hurt us.
Secondly, the Holy Spirit helps us to be gentle as we deal with those who sin around us. St. Paul wrote to the Galatians these words, “Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit” (Gal 6:1). There are times when we have to help a brother or sister see the error of his or her ways, lest that person be lost in sin. St. Paul one time asked his little Church at Corinth, “What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?” (I Cor 4:21). The Holy Spirit will give us this spirit of gentleness to help bring others back to the truth. That was certainly Moses’ aim with his siblings.
Thirdly, the Holy Spirit will help us to be gentle in our observations. The Book of Sirach (45:4) notes that “because of his trustworthiness and meekness [that is, his gentleness], God selected [Moses] from all flesh.” We are all too quick to judge someone else, and usually for very superficial reasons. The Holy Spirit will help us to look on all others around us with a greater friendliness. Instead of being rough or bad tempered or quick to anger or brusque or even just indifferent, we will look upon others with a mild and gentle friendliness. The ground of all this, of course, is love, love which the Spirit places in our hearts.
My sisters and brother, the result of this great gift will be the ability to be truly gentle, a gentleness which looks with mercy on those who offend us, a gentleness which knows how to help correct our brothers and sisters who go down the wrong path, and a gentleness which helps us look on all in a friendly manner, to be gentle in our observations.