As we prepare, always inadequately, for Easter and the events preceding it, let us look this year at the Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew's Gospel. We'll skip the most famous part - the Beatitudes - and begin with 5:11-12: "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
Many people read these verses and ignore the phrase "because of me." Jesus says that if we suffer on account of speaking about him, proclaiming the kingdom, or holding to our faith, then we are rewarded. He is not speaking of being rewarded for suffering in general - being sick, or your car breaking down, or someone yelling at you. That kind of suffering is not rewarded because it is a normal part of life.
But suffering on behalf of the Gospel, the good news, is worthy of reward. This is the type of persecution suffered by the prophets. We recently looked at the call of Moses, Jeremiah and Isaiah. All suffered for carrying out the directives God gave them, as did the other Biblical prophets up to John the Baptist.
For reflection: Even if I am not a prophet on the scale of Moses, Jeremiah or Isaiah, have I been open enough about the Gospel that I suffered for it?
Let us pray. Here I am, Jesus. I do not seek suffering for the sake of suffering, but I seek the fullness of your kingdom on earth. I want to do my part to bring it about.