Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

By Duane Shank 8-03-2011

I have gotten so used to stories of violence in the news every morning that I confess they don't move me as much as they should, or used to. Today: Three straight days of killing in Karachi with 42 dead; Syrian tanks shelling the city of Hama, where more than 100 people have died since Sunday; U.N. peacekeepers killed by a landmine in Sudan; daily deaths in Libya; bombings in Baghdad; and assassinations in Kandahar. It goes on and on.

But yesterday when I opened the New York Times, there was a front-page story on the unfolding famine in Somalia. A large photo of a starving child filled most of the top half of the page. As I looked at that small, emaciated body my eyes started to fill. When I turned to the inside continuation of the story, there was a hazy, almost surreal photo of a mother and child. I started to weep.

Weeping for a world where violence and death have become so commonplace. For a world where children are always the first to suffer. For a world where the vision of Isaiah of a new world where "No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days" seems more like a mockery than a promise.

In our monthly chapel service later that morning, the leader shared a reflection on the Beatitude "Blessed are those who mourn," from Nicholas Wolterstorff's Lament for a Son:

"Blessed are those who mourn." What can it mean? One can understand
why Jesus hails those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
why he hails the merciful,
why he hails the pure in heart,
why he hails the peacemakers,
why he hails those who endure under persecution.

These are qualities of character which belong to the life of the kingdom. But why does he hail the mourners of the world? Why cheer tears?

It must be that mourning is also a quality of character that belongs to the life of his realm. Who then are the mourners? The mourners are those who have caught a glimpse of God's new day, who ache with all their being for that day's coming, and who break out into tears when confronted with its absence.

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