Blessed are the gentle [or the meek, humble, non-violent, unassuming]: they shall have the earth as inheritance. —Matthew 5:5
This Beatitude is a quote from Psalm 37:11: “the humble shall have the land for their own.” Some translate it “the nonviolent.” The translation perhaps most familiar is “the meek.” It is the unique power of the powerless, which people who have always had power never understand. It is claimed by Mary in her famous Magnificat where she mirrors and models the many “barren” women in the Hebrew Scriptures: “God has looked upon me in my lowliness. . . . God fills the starving with good things” (Luke 1:48, 53). She represented the pivotal biblical theme of “the poor of Yahweh” (anawim), taught especially by the prophets Zephaniah (2:3) and Zechariah (9:9). Surely Mary and Joseph modeled this stance for Jesus as a child. Their offering of two turtle doves at his presentation in the temple (Luke 2:24), which was the offering of the landless peasantry, reveals their social place in Jewish society.
If there was one hated group in Palestine of Jesus’ day, it was landlords, those who possess the land. Nobody possessed land except by violence, by oppression, by holding onto it and making all the peasants pay a portion of their harvest. Jesus is turning that around and saying no, it’s you little ones who are finally going to possess the land. I can hear implicit critique in his voice, but also hope.