You were rejected by men. May I not seek the
approval of men who reject You. I will remember
that I most resemble You, the Man of Sorrows, in
suffering for the Kingdom.
Among our basic needs is a sense of belonging. Our earliest belonging is within our own families—we get a sense of self associating with those most like us. As we grow, our circle expands to friendships, work relationships, and society. There is a pleasure in the approval of others and a pressure to conform to the norms of the social relationships we choose… peer pressure. If we want to be prominent in social standing, we must adhere to social standards.
The social order of Christ’s day lined up against Him. He threatened their positions by taking on the caste structure that valued people by their contribution to society. The prominent and the priestly sat in high feasts while the outcasts hoped for the scraps from their tables. Our Lord spoke of the dignity of all people and their inherent worth in the eyes of God. All are called to enter His Kingdom (CCC 543), not just the “great” of the world and those convinced of their own righteousness. Our Lord came into the world to seek the least and the lost—His lost sheep—while the world seeks to assign a value to the worth of men.
With the benefit of hindsight and the teachings of the Church, we know that Christ came to be God’s sacrificial Lamb. He paid a price we could not pay to restore a bond we could not mend. However, to the powers that surrounded Him in Israel, He was a revolutionary. He threatened their position. He threatened their authority. They heard His doctrine of liberty as a condemnation of their way of life… and it was. He was put to death to protect their social order. His sacrifice was for the common good because it was better that they kill one man than that all should suffer (John 11:49).
Even within the Church, egos can get in the way of truth. Many of the saints had to fight against the Church bureaucracy. Many were rejected for their holiness as the light of the truth they lived highlighted the shadows of sin within those in authority. Those convinced of their own righteousness bristle against the humility required for sainthood. Few saints are recognized as saints in their own lifetimes. Most swim against convention and their holiness is seen in hindsight.
Our need for belonging can guide us to align with social conventions. Those outside of the norms embraced by the world get shunned from our circles. Holiness is mocked. Piety is lampooned. Humility is seen as weakness. The man with the whip who punishes the man of honor seeks to advance his image in the eyes of those who command the punishment. Who wants to join those ranks?
Most wouldn’t seek the company of evildoers… but we often do when the pressure to conform is great. How difficult is it to put down the whip or—even greater—step in front of the whip ourselves? Many of the saints have done this. Many who were sent to do great harm found conversion in the faith of the saints they persecuted. If we would follow Christ, we should expect to be on the receiving end of the whip.
The Son of God came into the world to raise up the sons of men to be sons of God (John 1:12). Our glory is not in this world. The world loves its own… but we are not of the world because Christ chose us out of the world to be His own (John 15:19). It’s not that the world hates us (John 7:7)—the world hates Christ and hates Christ in us. If we would be His people, the world will hate us as it hates Him (John 16:33). The world is opposed to all that is good and holy (Rom 1:29-30). We can’t be lovers of the world and a friend of God (James 4:4).
Holiness means to be set apart. If we would be holy, we should expect to walk a different path from those who follow the world. We should expect rejection by those who don’t put their faith in God. If we would be His hands and feet in the world, we should expect they will become bloody from the scourges of friends and family. It is the way He led. It is the path we follow. If we would be made in His image and likeness, we will know His way of sorrow.
That doesn’t mean our lives must be gloomy. Jesus had family He loved. He had friends surrounding Him in His Apostles. He lived a life like ours except for sin (Heb 4:15). He saw the good in creation (Gen 1:3-31). He felt the connection with others in His love for them (John 11:35). I’m sure He laughed when struck by the humor of daily living. If we walk with Him in sorrow, we will also find our joy in Him (John 15:11). We have been called out of worldliness to holiness and we will rejoice forever in communion with our Lord—knowing love from Him who is love personified. Our rejoicing isn’t just a future event in Heaven—we rejoice now as in our sufferings for the Kingdom we follow Him who suffered for us.