By Fr. Max Oliva, S.J.
“BLEST TOO THE SORROWING; THEY SHALL BE CONSOLED”
Sorrow is an emotion every human being experiences. We often apply this emotion to what we feel when someone close to us dies, be that person a parent, a child, a spouse, or a good friend. However in our present economy, we see people mourning the loss of their jobs as layoffs become more and more a daily occurrence; mourning the loss of their homes because of housing foreclosures; mourning the loss of net worth because of the stock market instability; and mourning the loss of the fruits of hard work as more and more companies experience bankruptcy.
The depth of sorrow indicated here is captured well by scripture scholar, William Barclay: “it is the kind of grief which takes such a hold on a person that it cannot be hidden.” We experience sorrow also on a global scale – from natural disasters, civil wars, acts of terrorism, poverty and destitution, and pandemics, to name a few. Sometimes our faith is shaken by the magnitude of the suffering.
A challenge implicit in living the second Beatitude is the ‘willingness’ to grieve when faced with loss, not to deny or repress the feelings. Grief is not something to be overcome but to be experienced. If you have been taught that crying is a sign of weakness, as I was, you might want to ask God for the freedom you need to let go of control, a very effective prayer I have found.
The Reverend Victor Parachin lists six common feeling-responses to loss, the depth and duration of each being different for everyone:
SHOCK AND DISBELIEF – a numbness and sense of unreality when first hearing of the loss; shock is nature’s way of cushioning the blow and giving us time to absorb the full impact.
ANGER AND RAGE – about the death of a loved one, or some other kind of loss, and its consequences; it is important to recognize and acknowledge these feelings and work thru them.
DEPRESSION AND SADNESS – for most people in grief, feelings of emptiness and sadness generate feelings of depression, especially during holidays and on anniversaries.
GUILT AND REGRET – for unfinished business, for words unsaid or said harshly, and so on.
ANXIETY AND FRUSTRATION – possible concern about the future, impatience with the pace of the grieving process which does not have a set timetable.
RELIEF AND RELEASE –the day will come when grief softens and even dissipates and healing replaces a sense of brokenness; a feeling that there is still fullness of life after the loss.
This Beatitude also reminds us that we are not alone in our pain, that we will be consoled in our grief. The author of Psalm 126, reflecting on the Israelite people’s happy return from exile, writes, “Those that sow in tears shall reap rejoicing,” while author Eugene Peterson phrases the Beatitude thusly:
“You are blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear
to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.”
(November 2008 Newsletter)