“Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.” (Luke 6:22-23)
If you have been a Christian for some length of time, then there is every possibility that you have at least suffered some form of rejection, pain, insult or injustice for doing what is right. In moments as these, we tend to regret our Christian identity, develop hateful feelings towards our persecutors or even pray against them. Sometimes, we go as far as questioning God for allowing us to suffer so much.
Today, Jesus admonishes us to have a change of attitude and begin to see such pains as blessings. Yes, it is a blessing when you find yourself shedding tears because you obeyed God rather than men; because you defended the truth and did not shy away from the heavy weight of the cross. It is a blessing worth celebrating because by so doing, you make smooth your journey to heaven.
Being humans, we all have a natural love for this world and its riches. We tend to crave for the best of all we can see, for bodily pleasures and for the admiration and praise of others. These are things we never seem to have enough of. Jesus is saying to us today that we must love heaven more. Our craving for eternal life must be deeper than all other desires we may have. This is what Jesus means by saying: “Woe to you that are rich… woe to you that are full now… woe to you when all men speak well of you.”
In truth, the only way we can rejoice for having to suffer for God’s sake is if we make heaven our topmost priority. Unless we desire above everything else to be with God in heaven, we would interpret as suffering whatever takes our earthly desires away from us. We would even feel that God is punishing us for not letting us enjoy these earthly desires when in fact, we are being blessed beyond measure. Stop counting earthly achievements as blessings, count your crosses, your trials, your sufferings because these are treasures that cannot be diminished or stolen from you.
Stop storing up treasures in local or foreign bank accounts, store up treasures instead in heaven by giving things away. St. Paul says in today’s first reading that it is better to be wronged – better to suffer injustice – than to have lawsuits with others. Furthermore, he says “let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:29-31).
As Bishop Robert Barron explains, true freedom is detachment from this world and all it has to offer. True freedom is living not according to earthly standards but according to God’s words. A lot of people are busy climbing the ladder of success only to get to the top and realize the ladder is up against the wrong wall – only to realize that all their labours and sweats produced emptiness. Seek first God’s kingdom and you will not feel too pained when you are deprived of this world’s goods.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, deepen my love for heaven. Amen.
Bible Study: 1 Corinthians 7:25-31, Psalm 45:11-17 and Luke 6:20-26).