Our final reflection on the Beatitudes is today when we listen to Jesus telling us that “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Being a follower, a disciple of Jesus should mean that we find ourselves challenging society by the way we live. The assumptions and norms of society are often at variance with the way the gospel calls us to live. Here are questions that can help us in an examination of conscience. Do I struggle for justice? Do I take seriously my commitment to God and others? Do I ever experience weariness and pain in living the commandment of love and following the way of justice? Do I recognise the cross as the source of my growth and sanctification?
There are two types of persecution today. The first is the direct persecution that involves the shedding of blood. We still have martyrs in our world today. In the martyrs chapel we have relics of St Oscar Romero who was shot dead while celebrating Mass. He spoke out against the injustices perpetrated by the government. Five years ago, ISIS executed 21 Coptic Christian men on a beach Libya. Their masked executors stood in all black behind the men, who knelt in a line wearing orange jumpsuits.
The other type of persecution is experiencing slander and lies against us as Christians and jibes that try to caricature our faith and make us seem ridiculous. Pope Benedict XVI wrote on World Peace Day in 2007; “There are regimes that impose a single religion upon everyone, while secular regimes often lead not so much to violent persecution as to systematic cultural denigration of religious beliefs.”
In secularised western world, persecution usually takes the second form, which uses opinion instead of the sword.
Lord give me the courage and grace to daily embrace the way of the Gospel, even though it may cause me problems.