2. those who mourn
Blessed are ‘those who mourn’– who wail, lament and cry out loud.
‘Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted’.(Matt.5.4)
I’m no Greek scholar; but, according to those in the know, the Greek word used in this phrase to describe ‘mourning’ is the strongest in the Greek language. It signifies the devastating grief of a lover over the death of their dearly beloved – the experience of deep, profound, poignant, painful, sorrow.There is certainly a lot of death and dying in the world for us to grieve over. While the top 20% of the world’s population have more than 80% of the world’s total income and live lives of unparalleled luxury; the bottom 20% of the world’s population try to survive on less than 1.5% of the world’s income and are condemned to live lives characterised by cycles of deprivation and despair. Because they cannot access their fair share of the world’s income, many, in desperation, sell their labour for a pittance. More than 250 million children work for as little as 25 cents a day. And as a last resort, many even have to sell their bodies. More than a million children are forced into prostitution every year. Millions of kids, under the age of 15, are developing HIV and dying of AIDS. And more than 25,000 people die unnecessarily, from easily preventable causes, every day, of every week, of every year.
However, though there is much to grieve over, not everyone ‘mourns’ the current state of the world. What we feel depends on what we see and hear, and what we see and hear depends on where we stand in the world. If we identify with the top 20% of the world’s population who are ‘well fed’ and ‘laugh’ (Luke 6.25), we will probably ‘rejoice with those who rejoice’(Rom.12.15). It is only if we identify with the other 80% of the worlds’ population – especially the bottom 20%- who ‘go hungry’ and ‘weep’ themselves to sleep (Luke 6.25), that we will actually ‘mourn with those who mourn’ (Rom.12.15).
The scripture suggests that God identifies with all people he has made in his image – both rich and poor alike (Gen.1.26-7); but God has a special place in his heart for the poor who are treated so heartlessly. (Prov.14.31) When God comes in Jesus, he makes it very clear where he stands. He says: ‘whatever you do to one of the least’ – one of those that most of you consider the least – the marginalized, distressed, disabled, and disadvantaged – you ‘do it to me’. (Matt. 25:40,45) God says that whenever you crush my people contemptuously – I take it personally – it’s as if you are actually crushing me – and I grieve about it deeply. He says ‘My people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me.’(Jer.8:21-22).
As God’s people, we are called to love the world as God does. And given the state of the world, all those who love the world as God does, will ‘mourn’ horribly over the state of the world as God does. As we sympathize with God and empathize with our neighbours who are in pain – as we are expected to – we will inevitably be moved towards ‘com-passion’ – or ‘a deep sense of shared pain’(Luke10.27). When it comes to compassion, Jesus is our supreme example. ‘When he saw the crowds, he had com-passion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd’. (Matt.9.36)
There are three phases of ‘mourning’ associated with a ‘compassionate’ response to a world in pain.1
The first phase is ‘wailing’ – agonizing with the pain – either as a ‘victim’ or ‘one who loves the victim’. Jesus ‘wailed’ with Mary over the death of her brother Lazarus. ‘When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied’. And ‘Jesus wept.’ (John 11.33-5).
The second phase is ‘lamenting’ – analyzing the pain, its tragic causes and catastrophic consequences -as the ‘psalmists’ did in the psalms of lament. Jesus ‘lamented’ over Jerusalem. ‘As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes”. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”’(Luke19.41-44)
The third phase is ‘crying out loud’ – criticizing the groups and organizations, which are the perpetrators of pain in our society – like the ‘prophets’ did – so the public are forced to confront the issues involved. Jesus ‘cried out loud’ against the merchants in the temple. ‘When it was time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and oth-ers sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the moneychangers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2.13-16)
Jesus does not bless those who are happy with the present state affairs. He blesses those who ‘mourn’.