“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12a)
It’s all very well to say our reward will be great in heaven, but sometimes being here on Earth feels very challenging. We hold high ideals: to seek righteousness, and be merciful, and remain pure in heart; to make peace. The beatitudes, this list of blessings, feels almost like a ladder to climb, and at the end is not bliss but persecution.
“Oh, Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood,” we might pray, with those more modern prophets, The Animals. Don’t let me be persecuted. Where is the blessing to be found in being misunderstood and accused falsely?
Jesus sat on a hillside as he shared these words. He spoke to his friends and a crowd gathered around. He knew what he was talking about; believing in him is not a ticket to earthly bliss and success. He knew the world did not understand love and forgiveness. He knew the world would not understand him.
Here we are, still trying.
And the word of blessing comes in knowing he a human life, too. He knows the feeling of our earthly troubles. The word of blessing comes in knowing he understands, and he cares.
As we light the Candle of Blessing, may we know that even in the deepest darkness, we are blessed by Christ’s light.
(Reflection written as part of a Longest Night service.)