‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’
12th January 2022
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted’.
(Gospel of Matthew Chapter 5, verse 4)
HOM: Listening and understanding with empathy
The other day I was discussing what is referred to as the ‘problem of evil’ with my A-Level group. This is the logical problem faced by believers in God for whom the existence of evil and suffering, challenges the notion of an all-powerful and wholly benevolent God. Theologians have sought to answer this problem, citing freewill and character development as possible ways of answering the conundrum, none of which are satisfactory. In fact I would go further to suggest that in the face of real suffering which none of us will escape in some form during our lives, such philosophical responses seem cold and wildly inappropriate. In the face of suffering logical arguments have no place and may even exacerbate suffering.
Jesus, for whom our quotation this week is attributed, appears in our school textbook on the timeline of philosophers, where undoubtedly he has a place. Seeing him listed there may make the non-religious look again at what he has to say. Yet he offers no philosophical systematic approach to life but rather a way of living and responding to the world in which we live. Faced with ‘those who mourn’ he says ‘they shall be comforted’. This is a promise but also a call to the right response to suffering in our world. The only appropriate response to suffering is to bring comfort, be it in terms of ‘understanding and empathy’ or practical support to help ‘those who mourn’. In the Gospel stories of Jesus you will find Jesus feeding the hungry, mixing with the outsiders of society and healing the sick and those who are mentally afflicted. The call is to action rather than words.
Those who mourn are those who love others. They know and have known love, so that when they encounter suffering are moved to act to help relieve that suffering and to bring comfort. And those who mourn after personal loss do not require ‘fixing’ but they do require our understanding and empathy. Mourning will be different for different people and both learning and acceptance of that is how we can show comfort. Loss will be experienced in different ways at different times of life and tuning in to the need of those who mourn is really a blessed gift.
Mourning is a sign that we care and in ‘God’s Kingdom’ there is no room for compassion fatigue which we all feel when bombarded with images of suffering in our newsfeed. In the face of such suffering the only appropriate response is that preached by Jesus in the Beatitudes and acted upon in his life, and leaving aside the logical reasoning of the philosopher.