October

Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.

Reading: John 16: 16-24

This beatitude is about goodbyes. But it is not about a fatalistic resignation, rather a lived experience. We mourn over goodbyes of any sort; goodbye to home, to health, to youth, to livelihood, to peace, to people. We mourn especially over having to say goodbye to those we have loved – the broken relationships either through death, or misunderstanding, or deliberate severance. How can there be anything of blessing in such pain? The first and necessary step is not to repress or deny the pain, but rather to have the courage to acknowledge and then explore the ache at the source of such grief. The challenge is to risk embarking on such a journey, not as victim, but as one who chooses to survive by walking with the reality of what is happening, realising the losses, weeping for the little dyings as well as the big. It is something about being open enough and vulnerable enough to be present to the pain in order to give it voice. It is when we face it, when we speak it out instead of locking it up inside ourselves that, in some strange and unexpected way, a stark comfort comes. It is the first step in being able to move on. It is the doorway to an inner freedom that leads eventually to a letting go. This is not about forgetting but about remembering with a gratitude that may be tinged with poignancy but is also the first stage in the restoration of hope. Long ago the Israelites in exile in Babylon, far from all they held dear, were mourning and weeping. Their captors taunted them, commanding them to sing. They felt they couldn’t. “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” They couldn’t explore at any depth the pain of their exile. They were locked in by the wrong done to them and by their hatred of the perpetrators. What a challenge – to recognise that God was not confined to Jerusalem but could be praised anywhere – even in Babylon!

There is a strange mystery here. When we live the experience of sorrowing, when we have the courage to plumb the depths, we can be surprised by joy. The Bible is full of references to the broken hearted and the God of comfort, to times of sadness and mourning being replaced not only by consolation but by celebration.

There is a vital key here to do with memory (the past) and with promise (the future) which enables us in this present darkness to trust the faithfulness of God in yesterday, today and tomorrow. Goodbye really means ‘God be with you.’ Farewell really means ‘May you go well into the future.’ And the promise of comfort in this beatitude implies that with every goodbye there is, for those who dare to look, a new beginning, a welcome into a greater awareness of the God of all comfort whose word to such courageous souls is always, ‘You are well come. It is good that you are here.’

Suggestions for Sharing:

  • We have all experienced losses in our lives. Can you share one such experience with the group and how you reached the promise of comfort?
  • Is there something in yourself or your tradition you feel you need to say goodbye to?