“Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.”

Yesterday we were blessed to begin the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew (5:1-12).  This teaching begins with the Beatitudes.  Nine times, Jesus invokes blessings, specifically to the poor in spirit, the mourning, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the clean of heart, peacemakers, to those persecuted for righteousness sake, and finally to those mentioned in the headline.  Jesus promises all of these great consolation and ultimate reward.  It is not easy to consistently behave or have the disposition that Jesus requires of us here.  But Jesus makes it known that acting as He would have us do not only leads to our solace here in following His will, but gives us hope in the eternal reward Jesus promises to those who persevere to the end.  And we know that when we act in accord with God’s will, He can work through us to change others as well.  What wonderful stories there are of people who forgave the most egregious crimes against themselves or their loved ones to eventually see the guilty person or persons make a radical conversion to Christ because of this example.  This is no more true than in the last Beatitude when, because of the forgiveness explicitly shown to one’s soon-to-be executioner(s), we come to see the person(s) responsible for killing a holy man or woman comes remorsefully (back) to God.  Let us embrace the opportunity for: detachment from worldly things, humility, mercy, peacemaking.  And let us not shy away from working for righteousness and the persecution that inevitably comes when one associates himself with Jesus.  The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church,”  Tertullian said about two hundred years after the birth of Christ.  Through our martyrdom (whether external or internal) we too have the opportunity to grow the Church through a sincere and self-givning love to God and neighbor.

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