If you haven’t read the previous posts in this series on the beatitudes, click the category “Beatitudes” and start from the beginning! No repeated info. One beatitude builds on the others!
Behold! The beatitude of beatitudes, which has its own extended instructions and explanations, and so many nuances…
Blessed are you whenever they may heap insults upon you, and may hunt [you] down, and may speak — bearing false witness — all sorts of evil against you on account of me! Rejoice and exult, for your reward is great in the heavens, for thus do they hunt down the prophets who are before you.
This passage is full of aorists and aorist subjunctives. An aorist is a verb without boarders of time (past, present, future), which must be supplied by the context. However, we are here thrown so deeply into the family of faith that past, present and future melt together in the ardent flames of the Heart of our Lord: the entirety of the Mystical Body of Christ is before us, in front of us… we behold in our presence all the members of that Mystical Body who enjoy the transcendent joy of blessedness. We see the prophets being hunted down as if in the present tense… and it is all present tense for Mary’s Son, and for us in Him. And just as we rejoice in their fidelity to the Son of Mary, so they rejoice to see our fidelity in adversity, our rejoicing even though we may well be without benefit of a good reputation, even though we may well lack freedom in this world.
In our fallen human nature, we are tempted to shun those upon whom insults have been heaped, whose who no longer enjoy a good name, fearing that we will be besmearched by way of association, you know, the old condemn that damn Jesus for eating and drinking with those damned sinners kind of thing. That’s what we’re tempted to do. Can we look further into the reality of what’s going on? Few can. Sure, some can congratulate themselves for eating and drinking with those they imagine to be below their own social standing, but very, very few can stand beside the one who is falsely accused, who has insults hurled at him from all directions, who is utterly alone, abandoned by all, with all fleeing just as all the apostless fled from Calvary.
No matter. All is offered also for their sanctification! You have to understand that this is the thing about this beatitude: there is beatitude! There is transcendent joy which is not dependent on external reputations or freedoms, but on being a member of the family of faith, rejoicing with the prophets in the present tense, with the prophets being all those who lived the faith in whatever circumstances, and were faithful in adversity. The betrayal of such insults, of such removal of freedom — which our Lord Himself suffered by the way… — is impossible for us to endure if we stare at the betrayal, especially betrayal wrought be friends, by those we’ve tried to help, by those who, before God and man, should and do know better, but choose to remain aloof, to run away. We are not to stare at the horror, but simply look to Jesus as the littlest of Mary’s children.
You have to know that this has to happen this way, in all justice, all the insults, and the bearing of false witness. Like the Master, so the disciple. No good deed goes unpunished! Our Lord will treat those around us, if they lack any faith at all, like He did Pharaoh, hardening their hearts even while they congratulate themselves on being ever so very nice! Since our Lord is the one who, in all justice (aimed in the long run at mercy), blinds them, it is only the Lord who can unblind them. Prayer is key. But this can only, only be done by those who rejoice in this transcendent, God-given joy, this beatitude.
The “timing” of this beatitude is confirmed, as with other beatitudes, not only by the present tense blessedness of those who suffer so horrifically (which transcendent joy can only come from our Lord who is in Heaven), but also because of the present tense of right now having our great reward in the heavens… present tense… yes, even while we are simultaneously still suffering on this earth in all these horrific ways. We are already beginning to rejoice with the great prophets who were hunted down and tortured and put to death, and not only in the past, but also in the present, in the future.
We are encouraged by their faithfulness because we see them going to their martyrdom, with this intercession of their very lives thrusting us on our knees before Mary’s Son, whom she beheld on the Cross from the perspective of every time, from the beginning, as the Woman in Genesis 3,15, then as the Woman of Cana, then as the Woman under the cross, and finally as the Woman who is the symbol of the Church, the Woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, crowned with twelve stars… In this beatitude, we share that timeless perspective and present tense beatitude with her. Faithfulness in extreme adversity is its own reward, which is timeless, indeed, eternal. We are just so very much in the midst of the Holy Family… Well… before this great mystery of the enthusiasm and joy to be found in the Holy Family, I am rendered speechless. Perhaps that’s a good thing for a hermit!
O.K. One last note: There is a nuance Jesus adds here: “…on account of me.” You have to know that the only one on this earth who will likely know that all this abuse being hurled at one is because of having witnessed to the truth and charity of Jesus among us will be the very one who is suffering all the abuse. Those hurling the abuse will likely either discount the importance of Jesus (little do they know), or will have a different idea of Jesus altogether, and think that they are serving Him by abusing you. In this way, one comes to know those words of Jesus on the Cross: Ηλι ηλι λεμα σαβαχθανι; “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27,46). But this speaking so directly to our Heavenly Father through, with and in His Son, as one with Jesus, is perfect joy, perfect beatitude. We learn to love all as He loves all. We learn to become perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect, the sum total of all the beatitudes.