Today’s Gospel passage is St. Luke’s account of the Beatitudes, a subject about which I’ve spoken and written on a number of occasions. Jesus offers his disciples a series of statements intended, not as sweeping platitudes, but as the way they (and we) are intended to orient our lives. In Pope Benedict’s word, they “express the meaning of discipleship.”
None of the Beatitudes is all that simple for us to live up to. But perhaps the most difficult is
Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day!
Rejoice! Leap for joy! Not the first reaction most of us have to being hated, excluded and denounced.
Let’s face it. None of us likes to be treated badly. Persecution, hatred, exclusion, are not things we look for.
But Jesus was being realistic here. Those who speak truth tend to get themselves in trouble in the world. Look at how many of the prophets ended up being killed. (:For their ancestors treated the prophets in the same way.”) Look at Jesus himself.
This is not surprising. When people are confronted with someone who challenges their views (particularly the own lack of adherence to what is right and true, unless they are ready to be converted, one response is to destroy or otherwise tear down the one who reveals the unpleasant side of the self. And there will always be some – perhaps many – people who are uncomfortable with people who try to live as Christ asks them to live and their response to that can be angry and hurtful.
It is easy for us to respond to that by clamming up, by hiding who and what we are and what we believe in. But if we aspire to live as did Jesus, we will have no fear and will speak truth, even when if means painful consequences.