The Church is blessed to begin the Sermon on the Mount today in its daily readings. Of course, we start with the Beatitudes (Mt 5:1-12), Jesus teaching to His disciples on the mountain.
It is telling that the Beatitudes conclude with this last “Blessed…” saying (above). It is difficult enough for the secular world, and even those of strong religious convictions, to understand how poverty in spirit, mourning, and meekness are to be considered blessed. How much more so are we challenged to believe that insults and persecution are to be blessed as well. Yet Jesus closes with this, as if to say: “If you follow the program I just laid out, this is what is in store for you.” Well, it certainly was in store for Jesus. The sinless one, who practiced all the virtues perfectly, felt the stings (verbal and physical) unto His death. So, why should we be spared if we truly desire to follow the Master?
So when we encounter insults and condemnation for being true to the Faith, as occurs more in more in a world turned upside down, let us consider ourselves to be favored. A short earthly existence to be followed by inheritance of the Kingdom. This is a gift and promise none of us should turn down for everything in the world.
Fortuitously, Paul affirms salvation through suffering in the first reading of the day (2 Cor 1:1-7):
“If we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement.” (vv. 6-7)
Like those instances in the Beatitudes in which it seems difficult to feel blessed, discouragement rather than encouragement is the temptation when the world seems to have gone mad and there is a sense that the numbers against us are large and growing. Let us not be disheartened; rather we are to “Rejoice and be glad, for [our] reward will be great in heaven.” (Mt 5:12)
We have the Book and we know how the story ends. We win in Christ!