“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted…” (Matthew 5:4)
The second Beatitude spoken by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount is usually understood to refer to those who have particular reasons to be sad, perhaps because they have lost a loved one. Scholar Ben Witherington asks us to understand it in a broader way. “Those who mourn” are those who are disenfranchised, who feel helpless because of their allegiance to God in a lost world.
That’s the kind of mourning many are going through right now. In the middle of the longest government shutdown in history, the political and social disputes in our country seem intractable. I can’t even begin to describe those disputes without sparking one side or another to protest that my characterization is slanted and betrays my own political or social bias. For those of us who are committed to the vision and ministry of reconciliation that is Christ’s calling to us, the world indeed seems lost right now; lost in acrimony, divided by walls of hate and division.
It feels like a good time to give in to the grief over what we could have been as a nation and community. It feels like a good time give up. But, as John F. Kennedy said in a speech in 1961, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (people!) to do nothing.” As tempted as we are to give into despair, to give into the mourning of helplessness, Jesus’ words offer us the promise of comfort.
That comfort takes a particular form in the Servant Songs of Isaiah when the messiah came to be called the Comforter:
“For the Lord has comforted his people/and will have compassion on his suffering ones.” (Isaiah 49:13).
Jesus uses the same word to describe the Holy Spirit in John’s Gospel:
“And I will pray to the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you forever…” (John 14:16).
This is the comfort and Comforter we need right now – one who would dry our tears of exasperation and despair; one who would energize us anew to carry out our calling as Christ’s people!
Your friend and fellow minister, Rev. Steve Savides