retreat in time of sorrow
Today I invite you to reflect on these brief words Jesus uttered in the magnificent Sermon on the Mount. They contain one of the "Beatitudes". Beatitudes are brief statements that Jesus used as he preached on that hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights. The very heart of the Good News is contained in these mysterious phrases. They outline in paradoxical fashion the law of Christian discipleship. On this occasion we will meditate on this one: "Blessed are they who mourn for they shall be comforted". (Matthew 5:4)


Compose yourself as you did yesterday. Quiet yourself down. Breathe deeply and slowly. Empty your mind of other thoughts. Remember God is in you and around you. Ask the Holy Spirit to open up the great mystery of suffering and mourning.


The Beatitudes are very Jewish in form and content. They outline the virtues or mindset that Jesus considers important in the kingdom. This particular Beatitude is rooted in the essential work of the Messiah:

"The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to comfort all who mourn, to give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning." Isaiah 61:1-3

However, unlike some Jewish "blessings" and "how fortunate you are" types of accolades, there is no immediate reward or payback. The Lord is talking about life in the kingdom, which has and yet has not come! The beatitude is recognizing the fact that mourning has value. Doesn't that confuse you? We don't like mourning. We like to be happy. We like to be with happy people. Look at St. Peter. He wasn't happy when Jesus foretold his coming Passion and death. He was upset. Yet Jesus expects us to walk in his footsteps and carry our cross. (Matthew 10:38) right: crosses left in the fence by pilgrims at Santuario de Chimayo, New Mexico

Recall the time, after the Resurrection, when Jesus appeared to the heartbroken disciples on their way to Emmaus. He reminded them again of this paradox: "Did you not realize that the Messiah had to suffer all these things and so enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:26)

There are all kinds of mourning: we mourn for our sins; our losses, the violence in the world, the useless suffering we see around us, the death of a loved one, catastrophes that afflict people. A prayer says we live in a "vale of tears". And most mysterious of all "We fill up those things that are wanting to the sufferings of Christ" (Colossians 1:24). We participate in the saving work of our Redeemer-- until finally the comfort: "Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it so much as dawned on man what God has prepared for those who love him." (I Corinthians 2:9)

day two: reflection

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