We attended the funeral of a friend who passed earlier this month. She was a wonderful, righteous, generous, sweet person, teacher, and friend. The funeral was a Catholic mass, probably the third mass I’ve ever attended — including the invite-a-Jewish-friend mass I attended with a friend when I was about 11 — so I was even more unfamiliar with the ritual than I am in a slightly closer-to-home reform synagogue or Episcopalian service. But the lack of familiarity combined with the emotion of the occasion pulled me out of my own head, where I spend way too much time, and hit me with a 2×4 of wisdom.
It came in the form of the Beatitudes, which the priest recited because they were so very fitting for Liz Feldman — long a teacher and activist. They really struck me, especially the final passage:
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
It seems to me that Jesus was telling his followers that they would go forth and preach the word they believed in and would take a great deal of crap for it, but should have the faith to see beyond the crap, and realize that perhaps even because they had to take a lot of crap, they were righteous, and their reward was elsewhere than in the arena in which crap was being dished out.* We take a fair amount of crap as plaintiffs’ lawyers, and I know and work with people who represent clients on the far margins of society, and take great deal more crap for it. But when we are most reviled, and hear all manner of false, evil crap, it is likely just then that we are most true to our righteous course.
We’ll miss you, Liz.
* Possible that religious scholars would not phrase it precisely this way.