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Gentleness of Spirit

Gentleness of Spirit by Br. Mickey McGrath, OSFS

Artist Narrative:

Every morning, before anything else, ask God for gentleness of Spirit.
—Saint Francis de Sales

His feast day is January 24.

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The fruit of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5:22-23, is the result of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Gentleness almost sounds like something we could do on our own. Most mothers are gentle with their infants, caring for and nurturing them. But biblical gentleness doesn't mean acting in a tender and soft way, or even controlling physical strength for the benefit of another. To be gentle is to have a humble heart and peaceful mind and to submit wholly to God's plan.

The Greek words for "gentleness" and "meekness" are somewhat interwoven in English translations. Prautes, the Greek word translated "gentleness" in Galatians 5:23 (NIV), means "to submit one's strength in a posture of meekness." It is to calmly accept God's judgment regarding a situation, even if that judgment results in personal hardship. It is humility toward God. Prautes is translated eight times as "gentleness" and once each as "consideration," "humility," and "meekness." Epieikeia is also translated as "gentleness" or "kindness." It refers to the kindly grace that God exhibits when He helps those who don't deserve it (all of us), bringing to mind Jesus' parable in Matthew 18:23-35 about the king who forgave a great debt.

The gentleness in the New Testament is closely related to wisdom and spiritual growth. Galatians 6:1; 2 Timothy 2:25; and 1 Peter 3:15 all use gentleness to describe the way we are to correct or teach others. We are to submit our strength, including the strength of our convictions, to God's wisdom. We are to teach only God's point of view, not our own. And we are to accept that God's actions toward ourselves and others are the right actions, even when human wisdom thinks otherwise.

James 1:21 expounds on the gentle nature we are to have toward God: "Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls." Sadly, everything that is human in us is filthy and wicked, no matter how clear our logic or how closely we try to reconcile our worldview with God's. Only God is good. We need to accept His word "in humility" (prautes) in order to be saved. We must be "like a little child" to enter the Kingdom (Mark 10:15). In addition, to be gentle is to accept the hardships He allows in our lives, considering them disciplinary measures proper for our spiritual development. Gentleness is an inward grace that easily submits our own strength of will to God's Lordship.

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