HAPPY ARE YOU WHEN PEOPLE HATE YOU
18th Sunday after Pentecost. Holy Fathers of Kyiv, whose relics lie in the Cave of St. Anthony
In a world where it is impossible to avoid pain and suffering it might be a consolation to us if we were able to choose what pain and which suffering we would undergo. Victor Frankl was a Viennese psychoanalyst and author who lived through internment in a Nazi concentration camp. His training was helpful. He transformed the horror he had to endure by reflecting upon it. Dr. Frankl noted that the people who caved in were those who could find no meaning in their lives. Those who were able to link their suffering with something significant - survived!
Today the Church calendar gives us the opportunity to celebrate the lives of seventy men and one woman who chose the suffering they would endure. They are the Saints whose relics (that is how the Church refers to the bodies of the reposed) lie in the Near cave of the Lavra of the Caves in Kyiv. This is the cave that was started by St. Anthony, the founder of the Monastery in the 11th century.
It may seem strange in our time that some one would want to take on the hardship of being a monk. Why would some one want to undergo the fasting, the abstinence, the solitude, the discipline that this requires? We find an answer in the Beatitudes - that unusual manifesto Jesus proclaimed, which we sing in the Third Antiphon of the Liturgy, and which we read in today's Gospel (Luke 6:17-23): "Happy are you who are hungry now; you will be filled! Happy are you who weep now; you will laugh! Happy are you when people hate you, reject you, insult you, and say that you are evil, all because of the Son of Man!" Could some one really choose to be in such a position? Monks do.
But, actually, every one who submits to the will of God, accepting the hardships associated with living a caring, faithful, merciful life, loving truth and kindness - chooses the same thing! Ultimately no one escapes suffering. An important part of the Good News of Jesus' Kingdom is that we can choose what we will suffer for, by choosing to follow Him.
No one enjoys suffering. Christ's followers are normal human beings. We do not like pain, mockery and rejection. We do not like being taken for granted. We do not like to have everything we do and say examined meticulously by those who would judge us severely because of the Way we follow. Yet we accept this road. We find meaning in our suffering. We believe in the cosmic code of love. We believe it is eternal. We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come - where we will truly be at home and suffering will be a thing of the past.