THE BEATITUDES
Lesson # 4
God's Plan for a Transformed Heart and Life:
Blessed Are They Who Mourn

Merciful and Loving Father,
Grief and sorrow bring us back to You, Lord, like little children who seek the loving arms of a beloved parent. In Your patience and in Your tender love You guide us to Your Son so that our wounds may be bound, and our sorrows healed when we unite our suffering with His "for it is through the precious blood of Jesus that we can be healed. Father, send our Advocate, the Holy Spirit to guide us in our study that we may understand the purification of the soul that comes from the sorrow of true contrition and repentance, and the comfort that comes from a soul cleansed with Your grace. We pray in the name of the Most Holy Trinity: God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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BLESSED ARE THEY WHO MOURN

True, I was born guilty, a sinner even as my mother conceived me. Psalm 51:7 [in some translations 51:5]

I acknowledge my guilt and grieve over my sin. Psalm 38:19

So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds. Begin to lament, to mourn, to weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you. James 4:7-10

Note: In St. Jerome's Latin Vulgate translation of the New Testament he placed Blessed are the meek second in the list of the Beatitudes. Jerome's placement became the western textual tradition and all other western translations followed his placement. However, almost all other ancient manuscripts list Blessed are those who mourn as the second beatitude, and the New American Bible translation adopts this order. The Catechism of the Catholic Church # 1716 also lists "those who mourn" as the second beatitude. In any case, the first three beatitudes result in placing us in the hands of God.

Matthew 5:4: Blessed are they who mourn .

When we become "poor in spirit," we admit we need God. We realize that we are insufficient without Him. "Poverty of spirit" expressed in childlike faith defines our relationship and brings us into the presence of the One True and Holy God. As we yield to spiritual childhood admitting poverty of spirit and kneel in His presence, the more clearly we see God. The more clearly we see God, the more we become aware of our imperfections. We become humbled in His holy presence and we feel the burden of our sins. The result is that in becoming aware of our sins "we mourn our transgressions. To repent and feel genuine sorrow for our sins is a natural outflow of surrender to God through "poverty of spirit." There can be no forgiveness of sin without true repentance. In 1 John 1:9 the Apostle wrote: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We yearn to be purified in His presence and our cry becomes the cry of the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5

Please read Isaiah 6:1-7

Question: What is Isaiah's cry when he comes into Yahweh's presence in the heavenly throne room?
Answer: He cries out: Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!

Question: What is the cause of Isaiah's distress?
Answer: A sinful human being cannot come into the presence of a pure and holy God without feeling the painful burden of his or her sins upon the soul. The more clearly Isaiah saw God the more aware he became of his own sins.

Question: What remedy is offered to relieve Isaiah of this burden and his distress?
Answer: He is purified with a red-hot coal from God's heavenly altar.

Question: How can Isaiah's purification be compared to the purification of the soul that a believer receives in Purgatory? See 1 Corinthians 3:10-15; CCC# 1030-32; 1 Peter 1:7; 3:18-20; 4:6, 12; Ephesians 4:7-9; Matthew 27:52-53; Luke 16:19-31; 2 Maccabees 12:38-46.
Answer: All who die in God's grace who are assured of their eternal salvation but who still retain on their souls the stain of the guilt of venial sin from which they had failed to be purified in this life by an act of contrition deriving from an act of charity and performed with the help of God's grace, or still retain the accountability for forgiven mortal sin must undergo purification so as to attain the holiness necessary to enter into the presence of the One True and Holy God. The Catholic Church has given the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect; from the Latin purgation meaning cleansing or purifying. In Purgatory the elect are purged by the fiery love of God as Isaiah is purified before entering God's presence. Since he will be in essence the "mouth" or "voice" of God to the Covenant people his lips and mouth are purified with fire to prepare him not only for his audience with God but for his mission to Israel and Judah.

Question: What was John the Baptist's mission in preparation for the coming of the Son of God?
Answer: He called the Covenant people to the Baptism of repentance. In order to be able to come into the presence of God we must be purified of our sins. John's baptism prepared the people to come into the presence of God the Son.

Question: In sacred Scripture what was the first call to confession and repentance? What 3 questions does God ask and why? Please read Genesis 3:6-13.
Answer: Our first parents have fallen from grace in Genesis 3:1-7. It is the liturgical "hour" of communion between man and God when Yahweh comes to Adam and Eve in the afternoon in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve are hiding, ashamed of their naked condition. No longer are they "clothed in grace", instead they have become dis-graced and they are ashamed in their condition of sin to be in the presence of God. He asks them 3 questions:

  1. "Where are you" [3:9]
  2. "Who told you that you were naked?" [3:11]
  3. "Why did you do such a thing?" [3:13]

God, being all-knowing of course knows the answers to all 3 questions but He is calling Adam and Eve to acknowledgement of their sin, to confession and to repentance. "Where are you" is not a question of physical location. God, being God knows exactly where they are hiding in the garden but rather it is a question concerned with their spiritual condition: "Where are you in your relationship with Me?" The second question establishes that they are no longer "clothed in grace" but have become "dis-graced."

God's reason for asking the 3 questions is to call His children to confession:

  1. The first question, "Where are you?" calls Adam and Eve to an examination of conscience.
  2. The second question, "Who told you that you were naked?" is a call for an admission of sin.
  3. The third question, "Why did you do it?" is asking for repentance and the accountability for the sin committed.

These are questions God is asking each of us every time we come into His presence in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

In his great homily on the Beatitudes St. John Chrysostom wrote about this blessing for those who mourn: And here too again He designated not simply all that mourn, but all that do so for sins: since surely that other kind of mourning is forbidden, and that earnestly, which related to anything of this life. This Paul also clearly declared, when he said, The sorrow of the world worketh death, but godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation .' (Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, Homily XV.4). In quoting St Paul in 2 Corinthians 7:10, St. John's point is that for the righteous to mourn sin is "godly sorrow" which counts toward salvation. Sorrow for sins the natural reaction to a supernatural call to cleansing and restored fellowship with God.

Consider the story of Simon Peter's encounter with Christ in the miraculous harvest of fish in Luke 5:1-11. After receiving John the Baptist's baptism Jesus had returned to the Galilee to begin His mission. It was early His ministry, before Jesus had called the disciples to follow Him, when Simon Peter and his partners, after a fruitless night of fishing, had brought their two boats into port and were in the process of washing their nets. Jesus hails the fishermen and requests that they take one boat out a little way from the shore so that He can address the crowds of people who had come to see and hear Him from the vantage point of Simon's boat. Simon and the other men with him had been fishing all night, as was the custom for fisherman on the Galilee. They were tired and probably hungry but they agreed to the young rabbi's request and taking Jesus aboard positioned the boat just off shore so Jesus could address the assembled crowd: After he had finished speaking he said to Simon, Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.' Simon said in reply, Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.' When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus saying, Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.' For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, and likewise James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.' When they brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him (Luke 5:4-11).

Question: What is the difference between the rich young ruler's response to Jesus' call to follow Him in Matthew 19:16-22 and Simon-Peter's response in this passage?
Answer: Unlike the rich, young ruler, who was blinded by his self-sufficiency, Simon-Peter recognized that he was in the presence of God. The stunning realization brought him to his knees in repentance as he sincerely mourned his sins in the presence of the pure and holy Messiah and he was therefore able to give up everything to follow Jesus.

Question: At the conclusion of Peter's first great homily at the event of the second great Pentecost what does he tell the assembled crowd of Jews when they cry out to him in Acts 2:37-38 and why does Peter instruct them this way?
Answer: Hearing this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other Apostles, What are we to do, brothers?' Your must repent,' Peter answered, and every one of you must be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.' There can be no conversion of heart without genuine repentance.

But is it only our own sins that we should mourn?

Question: In the Isaiah chapter 6 passage (see verse 5) does Isaiah only mourn his own transgressions or does he feel an additional burden coming into God's presence? Why?
Answer: He feels not only the burden of his own sins but the sins of the members of his community: Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips .

St. John Chysostom, the late 4th century Bishop of Constantinople writes concerning this blessing: But He bids us mourn, not only for our own, but also for other men's misdoings. And of this temper were the souls of the saints: such was that of Moses, of Paul, of David; yea, all these many times mourned for evils not their own (Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, Homily XV.4).

Sin isn't just personal sin. Every sin we commit adds to the burden of sin in our community and in the world. When we are obedient to the command of Christ to take up our cross and follow Him we unite our sufferings to Christ's sufferings. To embrace our cross and mourn the world's sins is to admit awareness and an intimate involvement in the suffering that sin brings to living things "man and beast alike. In our mourning we admit that our sins add to the suffering in the world. Even when our sins are forgiven there is still accountability for our part in adding to the collective damage of world wide sin. Our mourning of world sin is the recognition and shared responsibility for the fallen plight of humanity "sins of omission, sins of commission, accumulated sin, personal sin. Christ died that mankind might be delivered from all sin and therefore when we truly mourn our sin and the sin of the world we unite with Him in His liberating sacrifice that promises the end to all sin. We mourn, we offer penance which yields to redemptive pain in our suffering united with Christ and offered up to God "this is pain and passion that is transformed into compassion through the Passion of our Christ. This is an emptying of self in genuine mourning and sorrow for sins, but it is not grief, nor is it the level beyond grief which is despair. There is no despair in this mourning for this is the kind of mourning that welcomes comfort and love. The mourning that receives Christ's blessing is a mourning that has seen mankind in its fallenness and nothing less will satisfy it than mankind fully restored (The Beatitudes: Soundings in Christian Tradition, Simon Tugwell, page 69).

However, in our sincere mourning for the current sinful condition of mankind, we have the promise of our Savior that on the day of His return all mourning and sorrow will cease.

"FOR THEY WILL BE COMFORTED"

I will turn their mourning into joy, I will console and gladden them after their sorrows. Jeremiah 31:13b

This is my comfort in affliction, your promise that gives me life. Psalms 119:50

The International Critical Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew makes three very interesting points concerning this promise [see page 448-49]:

  1. The passive tense used is a "divine passive". It is God who will comfort those who mourn.
  2. The comfort God will offer is not a comfort that can be known in a worldly sense, but is instead supernatural in that this comfort will be fulfilled only by the coming of the Son of Man into His Kingdom.
  3. It is not the mourning for mourning sake that will receive this divine consolation but God's grace will come to those who mourn the suffering of sin.

Think of the tremendous implications of this divine promise. It is our Father's promise that the very hands that formed the cosmos and placed the stars in the heavens, the very hands that held the hand of Mary His mother when He was a little child, and the same hands that were stretched across a wooden beam in agony when the Roman soldiers nailed them to the cross; these same hands will wipe away our tears! The prophet Isaiah promises in Isaiah 25:8: He will destroy death forever. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces; the reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken. This is a promise repeated in Revelation 7:17: and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

And so in our mourning for sin we will be comforted "but there is more. The English word "comfort" is derived from the Latin word cumfortare (com-for-tar-ay). It is the root of the word fortitude', which means: that strength or firmness of mind or soul which enables a person to encounter danger or to bear pain with coolness and courage (The New Webster Dictionary). So the promise is not just comfort in the sense of being held or sheltered, instead we have the promise that when we morn our sins and turn to Christ that he will give us the strength and the courage to overcome our own weaknesses and inadequacies so that we can take up our own crosses and follow Him as He commanded in Mark 8:34-35 when Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it. This cleansing of repentance is what gave Peter and his companions the courage to leave behind every worldly possession to followed Jesus and after the Resurrection to take up their own crosses and to spread the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ across the known world. Not only does the Holy Spirit comfort us in our sorrow and repentance but through living the Sacraments of our faith He gives us the strength to resist sin and also the strength to stand against sin in our community and in the world. We bear our suffering with a spirit of atonement, reconciliation and love and the result is comfort and strength.

Question: What recourse has Christ given us, in our earthly exile, to mourn our sins and to be comforted?
Answer: He has given us the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the sacraments as: The seven sacraments are the signs and instruments by which the Holy Spirit spreads the grace of Christ the head throughout the Church which is his Body (CCC#774). The Sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation requires the contrition of the penitent, a "sorrow of the soul" for the sins committed, and a resolution not to sin again (see CCC# 1450-54). Through confession of our sins to Christ, in His presence and the presence of His visible representative "His priest, we place ourselves before God's merciful judgment. In making an act of contrition we look honestly at our sins, and we take responsibility for those sins. Forgiven our sins, we are freed from our burden of sin, we are reconciled to God and reconciled to others, and through God's grace we are comforted and are able to come back into full communion with the Most Holy Trinity and the Church. #1470 of the Catechism assures us: In this sacrament, the sinner, placing himself before the merciful judgment of God, anticipates in a certain way the judgment to which he will be subjected at the end of his earthly life. For it is now, in this life, that we are offered the choice between life and death, and it is only by the road of conversion that we can enter the Kingdom, from which one is excluded by grave sin. In converting to Christ through penance and faith, the sinner passes from death to life and does not come into judgment.' Our Savior gives us the same assurance in John 5:24: Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come to condemnation, but has passed from death to life. Having made a sincere act of contrition for our sins Christ, through His priestly representatives, forgives our sins and comforts us with the knowledge that we emerge from His presence as pure as a newly Baptized baby. This is the miracle of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

In exhibiting "poverty of spirit" we enter into spiritual childhood in our relationship with God the Father. Drawing closer to Him we see Him more clearly and become aware of our sins. We sincerely mourn our sins and the sins of the world and as a result of our sincere repentance He comforts us, His children, and strengthens us in the struggle against sin and evil in the world.

Question: Who does Jesus promise to send to provide this comfort, to give us instruction, to strengthen our faith and to give us the assurance of God's love? See John 14:15-31
Answer: Jesus promised this comfort through God the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and our Comforter: If you love me you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it. But you know it, because it remains with you and will be in you. [..]. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name "he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid (John 14:16-17, 25-27).

The second step on the road to salvation and the second promise:

Blessed are those who mourn: to mourn one's own sins and the sins of the world
sin = purification à Comfort, strength, and reconciliation

Questions for group discussion:

Question: Does Jesus' promise of comfort mean that all our troubles will disappear?
Answer: The promise in this beatitude is not that when God comforts us in our sorrow that our troubles should all go away. If that was the case people would only use God as a "magic rabbit's foot", turning to Him only out of their desire to be free of the problem and not out of love for Him. In this promise, being comforted also means receiving strength, encouragement, and hope to deal with what is causing our sorrow. The more we suffer we can be assured that the more God gives us comfort and strength if we seek Him. And, it is Jesus' promise that as we suffer He suffers with us.

Question: Are we to only be concerned with our own comfort or are we obliged to offer comfort to others who mourn and suffer? Read what the Apostle Paul, who had been known as Saul of Tarsus before his conversion, wrote about this subject in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 and relate this passage to the blessing for those who mourn and the comfort they are promised: Blessed be God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. For as Christ's suffering overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow. If we are afflicted, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement."
Answer: Yes, we are obliged to offer His comfort to others; His mercy and love given freely to us must flow from us to others in need of comfort, mercy and love. We are the conduit through which His mercy and love flow out to the world.

Question: Can you think of any servants of Christ who were examples of this Christian call to give Christ's comfort offered in mercy and love to others?
Answer: There are many wonderful examples; Mother Teresa of Calcutta and Pope John Paul II are two excellent examples of the outpouring of the love of Christ. Christ's love radiated from their lives and into the lives of every person with whom they came in contact.

Question: St. Paul had first hand knowledge of suffering for Christ. He also received a lesson in how Jesus viewed suffering in his first encounter with Christ. How is Christ's suffering with His Church expressed in Jesus' question to Paul when he was known as Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus? Why is Jesus' question to Paul/Saul significant? How is this encounter connected with the 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 passage? See Acts 9:1-6 for Paul/Saul's first encounter with Jesus Christ.
Answer: In this passage Saul of Tarsus, who was an officer in the Jewish court called the Sanhedrin, had been persecuting Christians in Judea and was being sent to Damascus, Syria to arrest more Christian families. In his encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road, Jesus asks Saul, Why do you persecute me? When Saul (Paul) inquires who is it who is speaking to him Jesus replies, I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting (Acts 9:4-5). It is a significant that Jesus is not asking "Why do you persecute my Church?" Instead, Jesus' question to Saul implies that when the early Christians suffered persecution that Christ suffered with them. In the passage from 2 Corinthians Paul is also telling us that we are obliged to take what we have learned from our experience of suffering and as an agent of God to offer comfort to others who have suffered. In this way we take on the suffering of Christ as we experience afflictions in service to Christ's ministry.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.