St. John 14.vv.1-6

~ "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going". Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?". Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me". ~

Blessed are those who mourn ~ really?!

What on earth (literally) did Jesus mean?

The word "mourn" is almost exclusively used of sorrow caused by the death of one we love. Moreover the word "blessed" in some inept translations is given as "happy" making confusion worse confounded. How can you understand this? So far from being "blessed", many mourners may become bitter about life, angry at God or with others, never able to overcome self-pity, overwhelmed by mourning and tears.

How often I have read these words in a funeral service and wondered how they sound when addressed to those who are beside themselves with grief, remembering the mutilated body of a dear one suddenly killed by a drunken driver, the wasted body of one who died a painful death, the little cot-death, the child cut short in her prime with leukaemia. The "natural" concomitant to mourning and tears is often bitterness, self-pity, self-hate, depression, keeping a stiff upper lip but inwardly being filled with more rage and depression than we can possibly handle; repressing feelings which may perhaps years later come to the surface and cause a pathological state of neuroses and black depression.

On the other hand, to mourn, that is, to give vent to our sorrow, may indeed be "blessed" because it allows for the grace of tears to begin the process of grieving and the long painful process of healing the deep wound caused by our loss.

The verse ends "for they shall find comfort". Humanly speaking, in a truly Christian setting who ever has lacked a shoulder to cry on, an arm around the shoulders? God gives us one another to be a comfort to us.

On the spiritual level, Psalms, Scripture and Christian experience testify to the presence of God in our affliction. The Christ who wept at the grave of Lazarus knows our sorrows, is with us in our pain, will never leave us or forsake us.

Mourning, however, is not simply what we do at the death of others for we mourn when we see the cruelty and stupidity of people in their behaviour towards one another, and we mourn for our own folly and wickedness when we consider the appalling mess we make of our lives, the mess our children possibly make of theirs, the mess that society in general certainly makes of its life, the world's sin and error, the piling of arms, the injustice, the lack of compassion around us.

Jesus lamented over Jerusalem and there is much for us to lament, but if we truly mourn, that is take to heart, view with compassion the sorrows of the world and our own, we do indeed by the grace of God receive comfort and know that we are ever in the love of God.

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