Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Blessed Are Those Who Mourn
Today’s Gospel presents the Beatitudes. I want to hone in on one of these: Blessed are those who mourn for they will be comforted.
That always seemed to me to be a strange blessing. When I hear this, I sometimes think of people in a funeral home crying at the death of a loved one. Is the Lord saying that a person is blessed because the person is in grief? That cannot be possible. God isn't happy when we have pain. Perhaps we are being encouraged to share in the grief of others, not to let people be alone in their grief. Certainly the Lord blesses people who leave the comfort of their lives to be exposed to other people's pain.
But this beatitude is a lot deeper than that. Do you remember when Jesus said, "Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" (Mat 23:37) Jesus wept over Jerusalem because the center of God's chosen people refused to recognize the presence of the Messiah. He wept over Jerusalem because the people there were more concerned with their possessions and their lives than with the presence of God among them. He wept over Jerusalem because the people thought they were self sufficient. He wept over Jerusalem because he could see the destruction their own actions were bringing on themselves.
Blessed are those who weep, they shall be comforted.
This is the reason why the Church has an active role in encouraging morality in our nation. When we see recognize that a particular public policy is immoral, we weep over the destruction these actions bring upon our country. So to the many people, both within and outside of the Church, who ask, "Why does the Church make a statement which has to do with the laws of our country?" we answer, "We do this because we love our country, and we weep over what our country is doing to itself.
Some will inevitably go on to say, "Church and State should remain separate." I'm sure you have been faced with that statement. First of all, to get historical regarding the United States, the separation of Church and State was put into the American Constitution to protect various religions from interference by the country. There would be no one state religion in the United States. Nor would certain faiths be excluded because they had not been recognized by the American constitution. The government would not pick leaders of the various denominations. Nor would it force people to attend Church services.
Without demanding adherence to a particular religion, the Founding Fathers recognized the need for God's guidance in the country. They put the words "In God We Trust" on our coins. The separation of Church and State has nothing to do with our need to seek God's guidance for the nation.
Therefore, when the bishops make a statement, such as the document on nuclear war, the document on poverty and justice, the statements on fair labor practices, the statements on family values, or as when the Church speaks out about abortion, infanticide, capital punishment, euthanasia, etc. the intent of the Church is to direct the country in ways of morality. We can't be Polly-annas, blindly optimistic, and refuse to see evil among us or do anything about evil among us. We weep at the self destruction of our country. Therefore: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
There is another problem here. We have only one life, not two lives. We are Catholic citizens. We are not Catholic here and citizens there. For our whole lives we have heard the Church saying that what takes place in our Sunday worship must be reflected in our daily lives. If we are going to speak to each other about the Love of God in church Sunday, then we need to be living the love of God in the way we treat other people during the week. The problem is that some people act as though they are two different people, saying one thing in Church and acting in a completely opposite way in public. That is hypocrisy. Just as it is wrong for a person to be a fine family man in Church on Sunday and be cheating on his wife during the week, it is also wrong for a person to claim certain convictions in Church and others outside of Church. Indeed, the well hacked out statement, "I am opposed to this personally but would not publically oppose this." simply translates into "I do not have the courage to stand by my convictions."
Jesus wept over Jerusalem because he could see the destruction the actions of the people were bringing on themselves. We, in the Church, weep for our country over those areas that are leading the country to moral decay. Therefore, we speak out.
Blessed are we who mourn, for we shall be comforted.