Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”
I find it somewhat difficult to think of mourning as a blessing. That is counterintuitive to me. It doesn’t seem to describe any kind of reality that I understand. In what world is mourning a blessing?
It would seem to me more realistic to say that blessed are those who do not mourn, for they aren’t mourning. They are not experiencing loss. They are not feeling bereft or lonely or angry or lost. They are not wondering why. They are not beset with regret. They are not missing someone.
Aren’t those who are not mourning the ones who are blessed?
But the world we know is not the world of the saints, those we love but see no longer, who I do believe are gathered around the throne of God, and shelter in God’s eternal care. We say in our burial service that we all go down to the dust and yet even at the grave we make our song Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! Because death is the way through which we go to return to God. Death is the way through which we go to join the saints in eternal light and life. The way of all saints is a journey through suffering.
When Jesus tells me something, I know I must listen. I know I must find the Gospel, the good news, in his words. And so, even if I can hardly imagine how it is a blessing to be a mourner, I do know that it is a blessing to be comforted.
Like all of us, I too have experienced loss. And I also have experienced comfort, as no doubt you have experienced as well. People bringing food. Friends sitting with me while I cried. Sharing stories: Remembrances, memories, together over some silliness or another. I have been comforted by looking at pictures and reading letters. I have been comforted by a silent hug, a squeeze of the hand, a knowing sad smile that says, I understand, I understand. I have been comforted by remembering. I have been comforted by knowing that I am not alone in my grief.
In a few minutes we will light some candles, and each flickering light will represent a person held close to someone’s heart. Each light will glow with a flame of love. Each light will remind us that death does not have the last word, even in our world, that love is stronger than death, that love is the most powerful force in the universe.
And so I believe we will all be blessed today to be surrounded by that light, that powerful force, that love at once both gentle and fierce that comes from God and goes back to God, carried like a precious gift with every saint that passes through the gate of heaven.