GOD NEVER IS CLOSER THAN WHEN, HUMANLY SPEAKING, LIFE SEEMS MOST HOPELESS. UNLESS HE CHOOSES TO BLOCK GOD OUT OF HIS LIFE, NO MAN EVER CAN TRUTHFULLY SAY, ‘I SUFFER ALONE’.
“If you are of cheerful disposition and generally inclined to look on the bright side of life, you may feel a little uncomfortable as you listen to Jesus say, in His Sermon on the Mount, ‘Blessed are they who mourn.’ You may feel a twinge of guilt at the thought of your own inveterate cheerfulness, and may wonder whether it is quite Christian to feel as happy as you do. Just what does Jesus mean, anyway?
WHAT DOES JESUS MEAN, ANYWAY?
His first meaning is a literal one. He means exactly what He says. Jesus was addressing a crowd of people who, for the most part, were poor and who daily lived with sorrow. There was no social security, no unemployment insurance, no farm subsidies. There were few parents among his listeners who did not know at times the awful anxiety of being unable to provide bread for their children.
The science of medicine was rudimentary, too. There were no wonder drugs. The infant mortality rate was high. Childhood diseases and adult illnesses were too often fatal. Death and grief were frequent intruders in the homes of Christ’s hearers.
THE MEANING OF SUFFERING
Jesus wanted them (and us) to know that God is not indifferent to the sorrows of His children. Indeed, there is nothing which exerts a more powerful claim upon God for His compassionate attention than does the mental anguish of persons of good will. This is the type of suffering which is closest to the agony of God’s own Son.
God will give the strength to survive sorrow. God will give the grace to make grief a purifying and sanctifying force and a sure path to heaven. God never is closer than when, humanly speaking, life seems most hopeless. Unless he chooses to block God out of his life, no man ever can truthfully say, ‘I suffer alone.’ And in heaven there surely will be, very close to the martyrs, a degree of glory and happiness reserved for those who have been burdened with mental distress.
MORE THAN JUST THE LITERAL SENSE
When Jesus said, ‘Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted,’ He meant His word to be taken literally, but He did not l i m i t His meaning to the literal sense. No matter how free from other grief we may be, we all have the obligation to mourn for our sins, to sorrow for the times we have rejected God’s love and for the graces we have wasted. From this type of grief – tempered by our confidence in God’s mercy – we never must be free.
THOSE WHO REJECT GOD OR DO NOT KNOW HIM
There is still another kind of sorrow to which the Christian must not be a stranger. This is the sorrow engendered in us by the suffering – spiritual, mental and physical – of others.
We should be deeply concerned, for example, that so many of our brothers and sisters live their lives completely divorced from God. We should be concerned that so many choose to make sin a way of life. We should be concerned that so many have not yet heard of the Gospel message of God’s love and Christ’s redemption. We should be concerned that there are so many divisions among Christians. We should be concerned that there is so much hatred in the world, so many people at one another’s throats. We should be concerned that millions of our fellow men do not have decent shelter or enough to eat.
WE ARE LESS MOVED TO WEEP THAN TO TAKE ACTION
There is more than enough reason for us to mourn if we have the sense of responsibility for our neighbour which, as members of Christ’s Body, we must have. This is a type of grief which expresses itself less in the emotions than in the will. We are less moved to weep than we are to take action.
THE GRIEF WE SHARE WITH CHRIST AT THE MISERY OF OTHERS
What action we can take, either individually or as a member of a group, will vary with each of us. We shall pray for sufferers, of course, but we may not be content with prayer alone if there is something we can d o . The grief which we share with Christ at the misery of others is a dynamic force. It seeks for an outlet, for a deed to be done, and is not content until it has found that outlet.
If we have to confess, ‘I have done nothing during this past month (or two months or a year) to alleviate human suffering,’ we have reason to feel uneasy. We can hardly qualify for Christ’s promise: the promise of God’s healing and comforting embrace, here and hereafter, for all who mourn.”
– Fr Leo J. Trese, 1966