"Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted"
We've just begun Lent, which seems the right time to be thinking about Jesus' second beatitude. I was taught early on that "mourning" (penthountes) means more that sadness over the death of a loved one or losing your job. Like all the beatitudes, its meaning is best located with the Prophets, especially Isaiah (eg Isaiah 61:2). But I like how the late Glen Stassen explains this by pointing to another of Israel's prophets describing a society that doesn't practice the sort of mourning Jesus is on about.
The prophet Amos pronounces God's judgment on those who do not mourn: They oppress the poor and crush the needy and then say, "Bring something to drink!" They sin and then bring sacrifices to the temple, thinking their sacrifices cover their sins, even though they continue to practice injustice. God pronounces "Alas for those who are at ease in Zion....Alas for those who...sing idle songs to the sound of the harp, ...but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!... Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it? ... I will turn your feasts into mourning" (Amos 4:1-5; 5:6, 14; 6:1-7; 8:7-10; 9:5).
(Stassen, Living the Sermon on the Mount).
So this Lent I'm joining the 40 Days for Life prayer team that holds vigil outside Wellington hospital. It'll be the third Lent I've done this, and so I have some idea what to expect. Abortion pits two groups against each other who both think they are on the side of the vulnerable and oppressed. In the middle is a great swath of people who see no cause for mourning - at least not enough to do anything about it. So I'll get yelled at, argued with, and told what a good job I'm doing. But mostly I'll be ignored.
Aside from "mourning" in prayer over the abortions performed at Te Mahoe (Wellington Hospital's abortion clinic), I'm going to keep a notebook of any significant interactions or reactions over then next 6 weeks. I'll let you know what happens, and just how blessed I was to be mourning this Lent. If you want to mourn with me the online signup form is here.