Walking with someone who mourns can be the richest moment in life
"It must be hard to deal with sadness and grief so often,” she said. I had just spent some time visiting with a parishioner whose mother had recently died. During the course of our conversation, there had been tears and laughter, and the whole mix of emotions that are so common when we find ourselves in the midst of mourning. While no two experiences of grief and mourning are exactly the same, the world of priestly ministry allows me the privilege of walking with many people who are experiencing grief for a variety of reasons. These reasons range from the loss of a job, the death of a loved one or the diagnosis of a terminal illness, to the grief that surrounds the loss of a dream, the loss of hope and sometimes the loss of the will to live. With such diverse ground for ministry, I have come to believe that walking with those who are mourning is not only one of the richest areas of priestly ministry, but one of the most important parts of the Christian life in which we share.
The hope that comes from trust in Christ’s promise to be with us always, even to the end of the age, is a powerful antidote for the struggle that can come in the midst of mourning. In pledging to walk with us in the diversity of our human experience, Christ also offers us an important reminder that times of mourning are also times that call us to community. Our own parish communities can serve as invaluable sources of strength in those times when we feel alone. Providing a home-cooked meal, a hand-written note, a personal visit or phone call in the quiet days that come in the weeks after a loved one’s funeral, or simply the whispered words, “I’m praying for you,” can be a source of immeasurable comfort. Simple gestures like these, combined with the power of a trusting faith, can lead us to experiences that are a mysterious combination of the beautiful and the difficult.
In the second beatitude, Jesus says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” The comfort to which Jesus refers can take many forms, including things such as a child’s artwork and sincere words of appreciation, the efforts of two parents to change the system and even the gift of new life. Comfort, too, it would seem, can be a mysterious combination of the beautiful and the difficult, all rooted in faith.
What could a New York City police officer, the parents of two murdered teens, and a young couple all have in common? In their own way they have walked the path of mourning, but they have not made the journey alone. Jesus has accompanied them, offering strength and comfort, often personified in very beautiful and utterly simple ways.
As our thoughts turn to the approaching season of Lent, we prepare to recall Jesus’ journey as He makes His way to Jerusalem and the cross. Yet the story does not end there, for as we know, death on the cross gives way to resurrection and new life. The sadness of death gives way to the bright promise of immortality. Mourning gives way to comfort and even joy. And so our journey in FAITH continues.