Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter
Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy."
If you live and breathe you volunteer for grief. It comes with the choice to be human.
When I make such a statement I include the principle of intentionality. It might be called awareness but I prefer the nuance of deliberateness. I intend to live.
Sometimes in meditation I have simply paid attention to my breathing. Resting easily I notice inhale and exhale and a significant pause before inhaling again. Eventually, before I feel oxygen hunger I say to myself, "I will inhale now -- because I want to." The Lord has commanded us to choose life and breathing is a very good way to do it.
To be human is to breathe; to be human is to grieve. Especially because we have a dual sense of the way things are and the way things should be, we feel great sorrow about the difference. No one should have to die and yet my loved ones die. I too will die. How fair is that?
And so we live with that. Sometimes we ignore it; sometimes we try to put it off. Neither effort changes the reality of grief. We speed away from it like motor boats on a calm lake, until we stop and the wake of sorrow catches up with us. Unprepared, we may be thrown from the boat.
Approaching his death, resurrection and ascension Jesus knew his disciples would suffer grief almost beyond human endurance. He suffered with them like the dying parent who wishes she could stay with her children. Jesus must go to Jerusalem to face arrest, prosecution, torture and execution; a fate he chooses in obedience to his Father. He must do this just as surely as the parent must die; and he chooses it with the same freedom I choose in my breathing meditation.
But his choice entails grief for himself and his disciples. Sadness is a blessing. Mysterious, dark and unavoidable it searches for us relentlessly, like the Hound of Heaven. It ignores our preference for joy and dismisses our predilection for comfort. It creeps into our hearts, separating us from others and teaching us the ache of loneliness until we choose to share it with others. And then it becomes joy, for in our sadness we remember his words, "I am with you always."
Our Catholic tradition is not shy of grief. We treasure the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross and the Seven Dolors of Blessed Virgin. In grief we find companionship with Mary, the saints, the Lord and his Church. There we realize our end is more than happiness, it is communion.