Tuesday, October 16, 2012

"Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted." Matthew 5:4

It took me a long time to write this post. For a statement that seems so simple, there are many facets to it, and I ultimately decided to go with three of them.

This post covers the second Beatitude:

"Blessed are they that mourn, 
For they shall be comforted." (KJV)

The word "blessed" in the Beatitudes is translated from a Greek word that means "happy." So I'm happy when I'm sad? How does that make sense?

Mourning means a lot more than being sad. Those who are in mourning are at a loss. It is the kind of head-in-hands, body quivering, tearful or depressed sadness that we usually associate with the loss of one who was close to us. But what was Jesus referring to? Who (or what) are we mourning, and why does this lead to comfort?

1. Mourning the loss of a loved one: This is the one people usually think of. When we lose somebody close to us, it is hard to find comfort. We tend to withdraw into ourselves as we go through the grieving process. People's condolences become a further burden, as we force ourselves to be gracious, when we really just want to cry. Those who are closest to the deceased also bear the responsibility of the funeral and the estate.

But Jesus provides a place of comfort. You don't need to keep up a strong front or comfort others when you are in his presence. Jesus is welcoming someone close to you to a new life. This is why the clergy wear white garments during a funeral in a number of Christian traditions. Death is not an end, but a step towards a new beginning.

Florida Memorial for the Unborn
One of the most beautiful illustrations of this aspect of Christ that I have seen is the statue at the Florida Memorial for the Unborn in Naples. Jesus sits, cradling in his right arm the tiny, swaddled figure of a baby. His left hand gently holds the hand of the child's mother, looking at her soothingly.

We lost our first child, a boy, in stillbirth, nearly five years ago. Ben would be in preschool now. Needless to say, this one is personal for me.

2. Mourning a personal separation from Christ: Many of the commentaries that I have read suggest that this Beatitude was aimed at those who mourn their sinful state. I think this oversimplifies things. Rather, I see it as mourning a separation from Jesus himself.

Think of the things that you have done that prevent you from connecting with others. We are disconnected with the people whom we've harmed. We are disconnected with the people whom we ignore. We are disconnected with the people around us when we focus on ourselves.

Jesus is in everybody, so every disconnect with others is a disconnect with him (Matthew 25).

Those who realize that they've lost that connection meet with mourning. But, as Jesus said, you will be comforted, because he's still there. He's always ready to reconnect.

3. Mourning the world's separation from Christ: This is similar to the second point, but on a global scale. When the majority of the world's population lives in poverty and our nation descends towards Roman imperial squalor, there is much to mourn about the state of things.

Once again, Jesus is there as a soothing influence. It's okay to mourn the sad state of the world. It means that you care. God knows we need more people to care.

I might be reaching a bit, but I take this Beatitude a step further and I use it as a call to action. The suffering of the world should sadden you, but it should also remind you that there is work to be done. Pray about what you can do to help, even if you don't leave your own community. God will give you an answer if you listen.

Words of Wisdom

The prophet Isaiah, on peace: "And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

Isaiah 2:4

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