Ever played the opposite game? When you play the opposite game you answer questions with the opposite of what it the real answer. So when you say “no” to the question “Are you happy?” you really mean “yes” you are happy. You get the idea.
One of life’s most confusing features is when the most real and the most satisfying and even the most rewarding path of your life absolutely makes no sense to what should be the “normal” path. In medicine, it doesn’t make sense that to immunize a person, you have to give them a form of the disease you are trying to protect them from in the first place. But when you do this, the body creates natural antibodies against the disease that protects the patient. Even on the emotional level, it doesn’t make sense that the path to peace usually runs through conflict. But that is often the case.
A wise man once told me that, paradoxically, we usually get what we need in life by going through the door of its opposite!
Perhaps you’ve experienced something like this in your own life; the little and (maybe) not so little paradoxes that teach, heal, and mature your life.
Our Gospel Lesson talks like this today. In Luke 6:17-23 our Lord teaches the people around Him saying “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven.” (Luke 6:22-23)
I don’t know about you, but I simply don’t feel “blessed” when I’m hated! Surprised, maybe. Sad, usually. Even fearful at times when I’m hated. But “blessed” isn’t the first thing that pops into my head when I find out I’m hated.
But, careful, this hatred that the Lord is talking about isn’t just any hatred. It’s hatred specifically BECAUSE of the “Son of man.” The hatred the Lord speaks of here is a hatred that comes when a person is following the Lord and loving the Lord and being devoted to the Lord in priorities and lifestyle. That path of life will always stir opposition in those whose lives aren’t traveling that same path. That lifestyle of devotion throws into stark relief the opposite lifestyle of self-centeredness and mere consumption of people and things. So, the hatred flows from the feelings of guilt on others and their confusion over someone who would choose to live their lives devoted to the Lord. That lifestyle of devotion often leads to the confusing choices of opposites: “If you lose your life, you’ll find it;” “if you die, you’ll live;” “if you give your life away, you’ll get your life back;” and so on. In other words, a devoted life discovers that you get what you need many times in your life by passing through it’s very opposite.
Today, are you discovering that your life is richer as you give it away? Are you finding real peace in your life all the while passing through turmoil and conflict? Are you discovering real spiritual maturity flowing from a child-like devotion to Christ? You can, and you should. It is your birthright as a follower of Christ to live out the central message of the Faith that even tragedy is not the end of the story. We are the Faith of the Resurrection. We always have hope. We always have peace. We always have strength even when we are weak. We are the followers of Him Who defeated death. We pass through life facing all the same difficulties of everyone else, but with the joy, the “blessing” of living in the Life of the Resurrected Christ. Today, pass through that painful place knowing Resurrection is on the other side. Even be hated because of your devotion, knowing this life is yours everyday.