“Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Mt 5:4).
So many have died over the past year and a half from Covid, too many from violence, so many from unexpected diagnosis of cancer and health incidents and vehicular accidents. Another word for blessed is happy. How do the families and friends of those who have died feel blessed when they learn of the death of a loved one? From a theological reference, one response can be that Jesus shared these words from the perspective of the eschatological event, his second coming at the end of time and that we can rely on the hope that Jesus died for us all and we will rise with him on the last day.
This is our hope and this is true, but I also believe that Jesus was also speaking about our day to day experiences as well. Jesus said, as is recorded in Mark 1:15, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus, is the kingdom at hand, just an outstretched arm away. Those of us who mourn will be blessed, will find comfort when we resist running away, or denying the agony and pain that threatens to overwhelm us and instead allow ourselves to experience the grief and the suffering of our loss. It is in the very embracing of our pain and suffering that we come to encounter Jesus with his arms wide open.
By experiencing the depth of our sorrow and allowing ourselves to grieve and mourn in the loving embrace of Jesus, we can release this unbearable weight and begin to heal. If we ask God or anyone near us why someone dies we may not receive a sufficient answer. His Son though, who suffered the agony, loss, pain, and hurt as we do, understands what we are feeling. His presence and closeness will be the strength we need to guide us through the many ups and downs, fits and starts, of our emotional roller coaster. Just like having a surgical amputation, our life will never be the same, but we will heal and be able to live again.
Today, we celebrate the gift of the Communion of Saints on this All Saints Day. The saints understood and lived the message and truth of the Gospel that Jesus has risen. They have lived their life to the full and have gone before us to the true land of promise, our heavenly home, and from there they cheer us on, encourage us, and intercede for us.
Jesus suffered and persevered through the cross, then into and conquered death. We need not fear death because through our life in Jesus, death no longer has any power over us. Yes, we mourn the loss of those no longer with us in this reality, yet we also rejoice in their new life in Christ. St Paul of the Cross, taught: “The world lives unmindful of the sufferings of Jesus which are the miracle of miracles of the love of God. We must arouse the world from its slumber.” Let us then not run from but enter into our pain and mourn so that we may experience God’s comfort, peace, healing, and yes, even blessing and happiness.
I felt JoAnn share with me, just hours after her death, that she would be closest to me and our kids when we were doing those things that made us happy. Jesus, the saints, and JoAnn remind us that we are not alone in our suffering.
Photo: Celebrating JoAnn’s life at the reception after her funeral Mass.