Good Mourning

Blessed are they that mourn:

for they shall be comforted.

Matthew 5:5

While poverty of spirit regulates our desire for what is good, and meekness governs our opposition to what is evil, mourning guides our response to those evils we cannot help enduring.

Though suffering is not in itself good, St. Paul notes that “tribulation works patience; and patience trial; and trial hope; and hope confounds not: because the charity of God is poured forth in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, who is given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5).

As the Apostle goes on to explain, death—the most obvious cause of mourning—entered the world by the sin of Adam (Rom. 5:12). Since God in his Providence permitted sin and death, though evil in themselves, they have become facts of life, and elements of his benevolent plan.

Considered in their proper context, evils remind us of the catastrophic consequences consequent upon our benighted attempt to live without God. Without embracing evil itself, when we accept the lessons it teaches, we learn that it is wrong to be complacent about our own sins, or those of others.

As Fr. Kirby observes, mourning ought to confirm us in our love for what is good, and hatred of all that is evil. At the same time, mourning reminds us that, while we ought to do everything in our power to advance the one and oppose the other, we must also acknowledge that the success of our efforts depends wholly on the loving care of our Creator and Redeemer.

To comfort is not merely to pat on the back, but to give strength. When we realize that our own strength can achieve nothing by itself, and that God has given us his Holy Spirit to integrate our piddling efforts into his cosmic campaign, we become able to face the inevitable setbacks and struggles of this life with sobriety, confidence, and joy.

Earthly idealism and the phony optimism it engenders are distortions of hope, which genuine mourning can cure. Recognizing that our own helplessness is an occasion of divine assistance, we are emboldened to do far more genuine good than our own dim lights would make possible.

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