(Editor’s note: Ian has been unable to continue this blog on the daily schedule this weekend because his computer was at the store longer than expected – Ian Burgess, Executive Editor)
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Matthew 5:4)
A young man with a little girl and a beautiful wife was struck with an agressive brain tumor. His condition was terminal. This was a beloved member of the congregation I work for, and sadly I never got to meet him. I did get the chance to serve his family by running A/V for the memorial service. I was thankful for that.
There is something offensive to us, when a 35 year old man is stolen from our midst. None of our usual clichés cut it for us:
“It was his time”
“She was in a lot of pain…”
“He went home to Jesus”
“I know how you feel”
Words are small comfort at the best of times. At times like these they are offensive.
With what words do you comfort a grieving family? A mourning community?
The pain of loss is felt most acutely in a death. It’s the tear of separation, when a loved one is ripped away from us. It’s stolen treasure.
Jesus does not specify what a person ought to mourn, only that they will be comforted. Could it be the pain of loss? The deep wounds of our brokenness? The ache wrought by an evil intrusion into our lives? It could be all of the above.
In his previous statement, Jesus declared the poor in spirit ‘blessed’ (Matthew 5:3). How is this different?
Mourning implies something which was once known being taken away. I’m not sure one can mourn something they’ve never had, so much as desire it (which Jesus gets to shortly).
Perhaps it can be interpreted in paralel with the previous verse: The poor in spirit is the offender and the one who mourns is the one offended against? Maybe if the poor in spirit is the one who knows he needs to be ‘saved’, the mourner is the one who has been forgotten and abandoned. The mourner is the one who examines his soul and sees the ruin the death-reign of this world has brought. Maybe he once knew goodness and love, but these things were taken from him.
Regardless, Jesus doesn’t specify. It’s almost like he leaves these words open to interpretation. He promises comfort – freely, to anyone who mourns. One of the study bibles I own makes the interpretive leap to tell me that those who are sorry for their sins will be comforted. Jesus seems far more generous with his promise.
It’s almost as though anyone who knows the pain of loss will find hope in God’s kingdom.
How terribly glib! Jesus, the famed preacher, healer, teacher. He is going to talk to me about loss?
Or is it the shamed worm nailed to a cross? Is he the one extending the hand?
We’re not quite there yet. The listener must take Jesus at his word.
Heaven is the kingdom where the mourner finds comfort. They are blessed, because the comforter is God, in human flesh, beaten and thrown to the dust alongside all the other mourners.
As the disciples hear this, is it an instruction for them? Is it an instruction for us, now?
In the end, though, would the mourner rather have comfort, or their loss recovered? Would not the grieving family prefer their dad returned to them? The soul which has endured terrible grief, to have the thing to sorely missed, replaced?
Why should the mourner want this comfort?