Blessed are they who morn, Blessed are they who suffer persecution for the sake of justice & holiness.
In the 12th Chapter of John’s gospel verse 24. Jesus tells us, “Unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, it self remain alone.” Every one of us has a hard cell of selfishness around our heart. Just as the grain of wheat has this outer cell around the inner life and it is only if that hard cell is broken that the grain of wheat is able to produce fruit and to come alive. In each of us this hard ego centric selfish cell, stands between our conscious life and our inner self. The Holy Spirit dwell within the inner self. Therefore unless we succeed in breaking open this hard cell we’ll keep God in prison within our inner-self. And he is unable to breakout and to penetrate and to influence our external activities. If however, we succeed in breaking open this hard cell, we become a transparent being. we become so open to God’s spirit, that it shine through our every thought, word, deed and emotion.
This was the way Jesus lived his life totally open to the Holy Spirit. This is the goal of every disciple of Jesus. How then do we break open this hard cell that stands between our outer nature and our inner self. There is but one way; namely Suffering. But not just any suffering but only that suffering which we have learnt to use properly for spiritual growth. And therefore, we can translate this second Beatitude, “Blessed or happy or fortunate are they who have learnt the true meaning of suffering, for they will find comfort.” Many people see suffering as pure evil, as something that is to be avoided at any cost. Many people become bitter, resentful, angry; angry at God, angry at the world, when some particular suffering over takes them and they are not able to see any purpose in it.
Another way that we have not learnt the true meaning of suffering. Suffering is no longer a blessing but is a curse. It becomes harmful and is frequently harmful for those people who are ignorant of the true meaning of suffering. St Paul tells us in the 8th chapter of Romans, “ for those who love God all things work together unto good.” This certainly includes the sufferings that we have to endure and also in the 8th chapter of Romans verse 18, Paul says; “I consider the suffering of the present to be as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed in us.” Paul reminds us in the same chapter that “we are co-heirs with Christ, that we are children of God by adoption and therefore we are brothers & sisters of Jesus Christ.” But he says; only if we suffer with him so as to be glorified with him.
If we look back over our lives at the different sufferings that have come over into our past, I think we’ll be able to say that we did make good use of some of these suffering that they were able to break open this pride or vanity or selfishness that had formed like a hard cell around our heart. As a result of our own suffering we have been more compassionate, more understanding of other people. Those people who go through lives without hardships, without any kind of pain or suffering. Very often lack understanding & compassion, sympathy for the people who have to suffer. Or again we might think that too certain occasions in our life when something difficult, something that cause pain or suffering of one kind or another as a result we become resentful and angry. We rejected this particular blessing this particular grace that comes from the second Beatitude.
There is a proud stick in the heart of every human being and this proud stick need to be broken. To break our spirit does not mean to destroy our will or our ego. If such were to occur this could lead to a real psychosis. We need a strong will we need a strong ego. When we speak of brokenness of spirit it is similar to the same word that we use when we break a horse. This means to submit the will of the horse that to a higher will of a rider. We do not destroy the horse when we break it, we unable the horse now to be useful for us and for many, many other good things for as if that horse was never broken it would be useless. So to experience brokenness into ourselves means to learn to submit our will and our mind and whole being. To the higher will of God as well as to the needs of our brothers and sisters. There can be no submission to God without submission of our life to a loving service of others.
This mystery of suffering we will never fully understand its origin. There can be various reasons why we suffer pain. It may be the fault of somebody else or it may be our own fault. In other words it can come from sin & negligence. Very often it is simply a part of a growing pains that are necessary as we develop, as we live one area of life and proceed to another area of life.
Finally, there are certainly some sufferings that are result of that cosmic battle that goes on between the forces of evil and the forces of good. And the areana for that battle is right here on earth as the book of Revelation reminds us. Therefore we are a part of the struggle of the forces of good to over come the forces of evil and in that struggle there is going to be suffering and pain.
Why did the suffering & death of Jesus obtain our salvation? It was certainly not to appease God nor was it to ransom us from the devil as some of the earlier Fathers of the church fought. The passion & death of Lord Jesus says; because of the love with which Jesus endured the cross despising the shame. His love was more powerful than the hatred of his enemies and thus he turned back the flood of evil in the world.
We might think of Jesus seeing this tremendous power of evil that had been created by the sins of human race for many, many generations. If we could think of this force of evil that resorted from our sins as a giant river in flood state and if we could imagine that river how rushing down a valley and destroying every thing that it was on its way. If you ever seen our Lord’s river in flood state you understand what tremendous power of destruction it has. So if you could get that image of the forces of evil the power the sinfulness of human race, and then think of Jesus as one lonely person who walks right out into the valley infront of that flood of evil and allows that total flood of evil to absorb him to take him over. Or if you wish he himself absorb that terrible force of evil into his own body. This is the passion and death of Jesus.
But instead of resenting it, instead of being angry, instead of passing on to somebody else, Jesus return good for evil. Jesus accepted his passion accepted his flood of evil in the world absorbed it into his own body through the passion and death and passed on love. In that sense, it was through the suffering of Jesus that the buck of the forces of evil in the world was broken. We as members of the body of Christ, St. Paul says in the 1st. chapter of Colossians, verse 24 “We must be glad to make up in our own body by our sufferings for those sufferings that are still wanting in the sufferings of Christ.” In some mysterious way God takes us into a partnership in overcoming the evil of the world. This gives us a tremendous privilege, a tremendous dignity, but there is a price to pay and that is through pain and suffering.
Blessed are they who have learnt the true meaning of suffering, who are able to take the sufferings that come to them and following the example of Jesus return good for evil, return love instead of hatred. Not all suffering is redemptive but only those sufferings that is endured for the sake of God. This brings us to the eight Beatitude which is really another way of looking at this whole question of suffering. This is usually translated:
“Blessed are they who suffer persecution for the sake of justice and for the sake of holiness”. I would like to translate it a little bit different; Happy & blessed & fortunate are they who suffer persecution because they do what God requires. As St. Paul tells us, “Be not over come by evil but over come evil with good”. And therefore, the persecution that we accept as a result of our doing is what God requires of us. That’s what it means to suffer persecution for the sake of justice.
Then that persecution if it is accepted in the same way Jesus accepted his cross then that becomes a means of sanctification. The reward for this 8th Beatitude is for theirs is the kingdom of God. Again it’s the present tense just as in the first Beatitude. People who are willing to accept suffering and persecution because as a result of their doing what God requires of them and if they accept it in a loving, forgiving way without anger and resentment then already even here on earth present tense they began to experience the kingdom of God.
We see this in the stories of Martyrs, in the centuries we read how they went into areana to be torn into bits by the wild beasts. Singing and praising God rejoicing, they did and did experience the Kingdom of God, a union with God’s love just as we’ll in heaven. Deeply sensitive people, suffer more intensely than others. This sensitivity can be turned into a deep concern & compassion for others. And thus will unable us to have greater understating of what others are going through. We put on our antenna and pick up more easily and quickly those desperate calls for help that come from those who are in desperate need or in great suffering.
We might say pick up the vibrations of the pain that some one else is suffering even though it is some kind of psychological pain or spiritual pain that is not noticeable in the exterior. But if we have experience brokenness ourselves and especially if God has given us a very sensitive heart then we are able to go out and minister in a special way to such people. This would be a part of the happiness & the joy, the blessing that comes from this experience of suffering. People who have never suffered themselves, ordinarily are not very good counselors for others who are in some kind of state of depression or other physical or mental agony.
The battle between the cosmic forces of evil on earth and the forces of God of love and goodness goes on right now and we are called upon to have a part in this just as Jesus was willing to enter into this struggle. So we too are called upon to contribute some part. Therefore, the anguish that we feel at the site of evils in the world today, the poverty the loneliness, the violence, the destitution, lack of the resources of the world, the ambition for power, the abuse of power. All of these evils will cause a real anguish, a real pain and suffering.
And if we accept this in the spirit of Christ, then in some mysterious way we will make a contribution to the over all healing of these wounds in the human race. The closer we come to the spiritual maturity and sanctity, the more people around us will consider us to be crazy, to be stranger, to be different, to be someone that they think perhaps even crazy. We know that this was lot that Jesus had to experience even from his own family and relatives. In the 3rd chapter of Mark’s gospel verse 21 we are told that Jesus family relatives came and tried to take him away by force and lock him up because they said, he is gone crazy, he’s gone mad, he is out of his mind.
And so this can be the lot of a person today who takes absolutely seriously the teaching of Jesus and gospels and tries to live up to the eight Beatitudes. This person is going to be out of step with most of the rest of the world. And therefore, such a person can expect persecution, can expect opposition, can expect criticism. Such a person is apt to have a hard time, a difficult time on earth. This is the part of that suffering persecution because we do what God requires. And if we can understand and appreciate the true meaning of suffering then God in the very midst of such persecution will give us an inner peace and comfort. As Jesus said; “Blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted”.
If we take seriously the teachings of Jesus in the Beatitude, we will of necessity experience suffering of all kinds. For example, we will find ourselves defenseless against the powerful of this world. That we will have no other defense accept those of Jesus words namely; love, prayer & forgiveness. Therefore like Jesus when we suffer persecution because we do what God requires it means that we must consistently return good for evil.
To turn the other cheek, to bless and pray for those who persecute us. To allow the whole theory of evil to sweep over us and let Jesus to absorb that evil without anger, without hatred but always with love & mercy. As St. Paul says ; We may be not down but we’ll never be not out. And so by accepting suffering in the way that Jesus did it becomes a means of sanctification for ourselves and some mere mysterious way just as suffering and death of Jesus it brings about the grace of salvation even for the persecutors, even for those who are responsible for our suffering.
Some other aspects of this suffering is that it includes the contrition, the sorrow for sin, which we must have in order to be forgiven. The very word contrition means to take ones heart and to squeeze it, so that it resolves in pain. Therefore a part of this Beatitude is to have a abiding sorrow for sin which Father Faber tells us, it is most essential element for growth in virtue and holiness. We must never forget the fact that we have been sinners. Therefore, we must never cease to regret the fact that we have them unfaithful to God.
Another part of suffering is especially for temperament who find it difficult to make changes in their lives, especially in their later years. And yet if we are to grow and to continue to become the saint that God wants us. Then there is the need of constant setting go of the things that are near and dear to us and pushing on to new things. One way of expressing this, is that we must slay our darlings. Just as Abraham was asked by God to sacrifice his only son Isaac. And Abraham was willing to sacrifice that which was most dear to him so we must be ready and willing if God should asks us, to sacrifice our little Isaac’s. To slay our darlings, to give up those things that we have become excessively attached to, all this results in real pain, agony, anguish, suffering and if we’ve learned the true meaning of suffering, if we have learned to use suffering in right way.
This kind of sacrifice, pain will be a means of salvation not only for ourselves but for others as well. This Beatitude was nothing to do with melancholy or ill-humour. It does not mean that we should be sour and negative towards life. There is a Christian joy in suffering. We rejoice as did the apostles that we are considered worthy to suffer something for Christ. If we have this right intention then suffering does not make us miserable, it does not take away our happiness. This in the paradox of the gospel and of the Beatitudes. “Blessed are they who mourn, Blessed are they who have learnt the true meaning of suffering for they shall be comforted.” And that comfort, that joy comes right here on earth.
Just as any lover is not satisfied or happy until that person done something difficult to prove one’s love for the beloved. So we should find great joy and comfort when we are called upon by the providence of God to sacrifice our pleasure and comfort to accept some kind of pain or suffering or persecution when it is done for the sake of God, when it is a result of our doing what God requires and ask of us.