Sister Doreen’s Reflections
Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.
In the deserts of the heart,
Let the healing fountain start.
(WH Auden – in Memory of WB Yeats)
Just a reminder: Blessed, what does Jesus intend by using this paradoxical word? In trying to understand the focus of the beatitudes I think that it is important to consider the meaning and the intent of this first word which we translate ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’.
- In Greek the first word is MAKAROI – which helps us understand people enjoying a deep inner joy, a lasting spiritual experience, like the inner joy that continues to grow deeper as life experience grows. It is an experience of life at its best and a call to do something about it! For example, perhaps a more real translation would be: get up, go ahead, and do something. Move, you who are hungry and thirsty for justice. For you shall be satisfied. Get up, go ahead, and move. Take action, you peacemakers, for you shall be called children of God.
As I said, most of us don’t know what to do with the beatitudes, but they sound like a beautiful and familiar poem, or a list that makes us feel guilty because we are not good enough, meek enough. Upon pondering the beatitudes, I really think that Jesus is saying: “If you feel you are living in a world where you don’t fit in, start creating a new, more loving world. God and the kingdom of heaven are doing it with you. Act like you belong to God’s kingdom. Do something beautiful with God.”
This second beatitude is so closely connected to the first beatitude. Without poverty of spirit, I am always on guard to keep what I have for myself, and to keep me for myself. In my experience one of the gifts of poverty of spirit is becoming sensitive to my own woundedness, my own need, and to the pain and loss of people around me, not only those whom I happen to know and care for, but also people I don’t know, and those I don’t want to know. One of the hard challenges and one of the most cherished of gifts that poverty of spirit holds out for me is the discovery that the extent to which I can open my heart, to myself, to others, is the ability to do whatever I can to help, pray, share what I have, even share myself – the gift of vulnerability.
I have always interchanged the word ‘mourn’ with the word ‘grieve’ or with the word ‘weep’. This beatitude is about experiencing intimate, intense, heart-breaking sorrow. It is a call to brave grief – to face it and stare it down. The most common grief is linked with death – devastating loss of someone we love and miss, loss of job and purpose in life, loss of health, loss of a relationship damaged through carelessness …; there are many deaths that we experience in our lives. And in these situations I long for tears! I long to be in the waterfall of God’s grace! I have come to know that part of being made in the image and likeness of God is being able to cry. Tears are a gift. As Joan Chittister says in “For Everything A Season” – “Weeping is very holy and lifegiving. It sounds alarms for a society and wisens the soul of the individual. Ecclesiastes may be nowhere more correct than here. There is definitely a time for weeping. If we do not weep on the personal level, we shall never understand humanity around us. if we do not weep on the public level, we are less than human ourselves.”
Mourning, grief, weeping creates a transparency in people, it opens us up for others. Mourning, the public expression of sorrow, helps us to integrate our grief. Anger, disillusionment, tears explode in the midst of humanity to give us all a chance to become more human than we could have been without them. If we do not allow ourselves to face and feel pain, we run the risk of entombing ourselves in a plastic bubble where our lies about life shrink our hearts and limit our vision. To weep tears about the things that anger and disillusion us may be our opportunity to take steps towards honesty, towards a healthy life, towards a life worth living. It is our opportunity to integrate our grief.
Joan Chittister goes on to say “Weeping, in fact, may be the best indicator we have of what life is really all about for us. it may be only when we weep that we come to know best either ourselves or our worlds. What we weep for measures what we are. When we mourn, when we acknowledge grief, when we cry, it shows us what we care about. It exposes us, shows us our deepest, neediest, most private selves.”
It is true for most of us in life, that we often learn too late that laughter and tears come from the same place. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. What we choose not to face, we often cover beneath a false kind of courage, and it is our tears, our mourning, our grief, that gives us back the opportunity to be honest. There is great comfort in this, but it takes great faith, great fortitude, and great abandonment. It changes us. It frees us. It takes away the stone! New life can seep in.
There is such importance in mourning also for the damage our actions have caused others and ourselves – those of us who have lived into the second half of life have a large supply of memories that arouse shame and regret; lies told, times of cowardice, help not given, forgiveness refused, passions give free reign, harm caused others. There is a great deal in our lives for which we can only lament, do penance, and seek forgiveness. The tears we shed restore the image of God in ourselves. For they shall be comforted – to have the gift of tears, the gift to mourn and grieve, is to have the heart to care about what we do to ourselves, to others, to have the conscience to care about what we have done to destroy creation. Herein lies comfort. Often the result is the discovery of both tears of joy and tears of sorrow. It moves us into a place of honest assessment and humble achievements, of deep love and deep sorrow.
Mourning has within it the means to encourage and to comfort. We experience a welcome home.
A song called “Take Away the Stone”:
He was just outside of Bethany on the way to help a friend
When Martha came to meet him and she said
If you had been here he would be alive
But it’s hopeless now; Lazarus is dead.
Jesus heard her tell of death but he spoke to her of life
And received the news as if he hadn’t known
He said, “Anyone who follows me will never really die
Just believe in me and take away the stone.”
Take away the stone, I am the resurrection
Open the door and see God glorified
Take away the stone I am life victorious
Open the door to the miracle inside.
Everyone has known at times how Martha felt that day
Defeated and surrounded by despair
Oh, but when you walk with God, you know there’s always hope
Just because he’s there.
Whenever you’re in trouble and you don’t know where to turn
Don’t try to fight your problems all alone
Remember Jesus works today just as he did then
Just believe in him and take away the stone.
(by Rufaro – Genius Lyrics)