Blessed are those who Mourn
The Certificate of Apologetics program I graduated from was 4 semesters or two years. 3 semesters into the program, I started discerning the diaconate and what my future would be.
During this particular time, my wife noticed a change in my demeanor and asked me what was happening.
I was sad. I couldn’t exactly explain why. I struggled to put my finger on it.
Why, during the past 18 months of diving deeper into my faith, was I experiencing this sense of sadness?
The best I could come up with was this:
My life was going to change.
It was never going to be the same.
I had made so many mistakes and poor choices in the past.
But I justified all of them.
It wasn’t my fault, I told myself.
I wasn’t educated properly in the faith.
My parents never mentioned any of the topics learned during my coursework.
The religious education teachers never mentioned these topics during my youth formation.
The priests failed to teach me properly. The church never mentioned many of the lessons I just learned.
I, personally, did the best I could with what I had in front of me.
Excuses Be Gone!
The excuses poured out of me. I was reminded of Adam and Eve after they disobeyed God. Adam blamed God and then he blamed Eve!
No self-accountability. I blamed everyone for my lack of knowledge of my own faith.
That had to stop immediately. I had no choice but to learn, grow, and change.
I had this internal struggle with myself and I knew that new choices had to be made in order to walk the path towards heaven.
This was the case with all of the Apostles and many of Jesus’ disciples.
Answering Jesus’ call required a significant shift in their lives, priorities, and values.
Following Jesus often meant a radical reorientation of one’s life, prioritizing spiritual matters and the teachings of Jesus above previous occupations, social ties, and often established religious practices and understandings.
There were lifestyle choices that would change.
There were movies and genres I’d never watch again. There was music and songs I would never listen to. There were people, friends, and family that were not going to be part of this journey with me. I would miss this lifestyle and the people, friends, and family I had to leave behind.
I finally understood Jesus’ words: “For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s foes will be those of his own household.” Matthew 10:34–39
Things would never be the same again, and I would miss my old life.
It wasn’t just the path ahead of me but also the path behind me that contributed to this sentiment.
I realized I was not the best son, brother, or friend. I made poor choices as a husband, as a father, and as a leader. Those choices had a negative impact on others, including my wife, my kids, my family, and my friends.
I could not go back and reverse my actions, but I could atone, make amends, make changes, and be a better Christian.
Things were going to change forever.
My wife tried to explain to me that these changes were a good thing, and I knew that, but a part of me was still sad about it.
I didn’t know it then, but as I thought about it, talked about it, and prayed about it, I realized why I was feeling the sadness.
I was mourning
What is mourning?
Mourning is the process or set of actions through which people express and work through their sorrow, particularly in the context of bereavement.
Sorrow is a deeper, often longer-lasting emotional response to significant loss or hardship.
Sadness is a more general and transient emotional state.
Scripture and Greek
James wrote urging Jewish Christians to take seriously their spiritual shortcomings and sins, to feel genuine sorrow and repentance.
James 4:9-10 “Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.”
This next line is important:
“10 Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.”
The Greek translation of the word mourn used here is pentheo.
Paul uses this word, pentheo, a few times in his letter to the church in Corinth.
In 1 Corinthians 5:1-2 he calls out the Corinthian church for being prideful instead of mourning (pentheo) over a case of immorality in their community.
In 2 Corinthians 12:21 he expresses his concern that he might have to mourn (pentheo) over the sins of some members of the Corinthian church who have not repented.
“For I fear that perhaps I may come and find you not what I wish, and that you may find me not what you wish; that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, selfishness, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. 21 I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned before and have not repented of the impurity, immorality, and licentiousness which they have practiced.”
These instances reflect the use of mourning in a spiritual and communal context.
What is Mourning over sin?
Mourning over sin refers to a deep sense of sorrow, regret, or grief that one experiences as a result of their own sins or the sins of others. Mourning in this sense is more than just feeling guilty; it involves a profound realization of the spiritual and moral implications of one’s actions.
Key aspects of mourning over sin include:
- Recognition of Sin: This involves acknowledging that one’s actions or thoughts are sinful, which goes against God’s law or moral standards. It’s an admission of wrongdoing, not just by societal standards, but from a spiritual perspective.
- Emotional Response: Mourning over sin is marked by an emotional response – a deep sorrow for having offended God or hurt others through one’s actions. It’s a heartfelt response rather than just an intellectual acknowledgment of wrongdoing.
- Desire for Reconciliation: Those who mourn their sins often seek reconciliation with God and those they have wronged. This includes a desire for forgiveness and a willingness to make amends.
- Repentance: A crucial part of mourning over sin is repentance, which involves turning away from sinful behaviors and making a conscious effort to change one’s life in alignment with moral and spiritual principles.
- Spiritual Growth: Mourning over sin can lead to spiritual growth. It’s seen as a step towards a deeper understanding of one’s own frailties and a stronger relationship with the divine. This process often involves prayer, reflection, and sometimes the guidance of a spiritual mentor or community.
In Christianity, mourning over sin is considered an important step towards redemption and salvation. It is seen not just as an emotional experience, but as a transformative one, leading to a renewed commitment to live according to religious teachings and principles.
There’s another important place where the word pentheo is found in the New Testament:
“Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.”
I once thought this was only for those who lost a loved one, as it was often used in that context to acknowledge bereavement.
Now I realize there is also spiritual mourning.