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Blessed are those who mourn? How?

Blessed are those who mourn? Jesus drops this piece of wisdom on us in the Beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5 with little to no explanation. If you've experienced deep grief, you may wonder, what is he talking about? How can someone experiencing tremendous loss be blessed?

Lent is the perfect season for mourning. It invites the entire Church to contemplate together our mortality, death, the constraints of our human nature, our limitations, and the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus. While it may end in the jubilant celebration of Easter and the Resurrection, we only do so by passing through the pain of Good Friday.

Kate Bowler, the author of our reflection material this year for Bless the Lent We Actually Have, reminds us that there are so many reasons we might be in our mourning. We might be mourning dreams that will never become a reality, or that our life did not turn out how we expected. We might be grieving a childhood we never had, or that our children won't get to have because of difficult life circumstances. Or you might grieve the children you never were able to have.

You might be grieving the loss of a loved one through death, illness, or broken relationship. You might be grieving the loss of a beloved pet. Or like many in our congregations, grieving a body that is not working for you anymore. You might be grieving brokenness in your life, like divorce, broken friendships, or relationships with family members. You may be joining with others around the world mourning the death toll in Gaza and the impending famine there that will likely take the lives of so many Palestinian children who are starving.

How can any of this be a blessing?

Kate Bowler reminds us that God doesn't leave us there, but enters into all of this tragedy and suffering with us:

Jesus enters into the tough questions that we all ask when faced with tragedy: Why? Where is God? What could I have done differently? How could I have prevented this? Jesus knows that there are no simple answers to these questions because pain, sickness, and death are part of what it means to be human. [...] For Jesus, who wept at the death of his friend, understands our tears and broken hearts and unmet expectations. He weeps with us—tears that only glimpse the full anguish, anger, frustration, and grief that Jesus knows too well.

We can say "blessed are those who mourn" because in our mourning, in our loss, in our suffering, God is there. God is there because God chose to descend down into our suffering with us. He chose to take on human flesh and blood in the person of Jesus, and then descend all the way into Death and Hell to defeat them once and for all and lift us up into the life and love of God.

And because of this tremendous gift of God's own self and Jesus' obedience to death on the cross, we are now a community forged by his blood. When he stretched out his arms upon the cross, Jesus drew the whole world to himself. Now because we have been drawn together by him and in him, we can be a community of love, broken for each other. We are not alone in our suffering. We have one another, sharing each other's burdens and helping each others needs in the name of our Risen Savior Jesus.

Blessed are those who mourn, and blessed are all of us who will mourn together the death of Jesus on Sunday as we hear the story of his Passion.

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