Matthew and Consolation (Mt 5:4)

“Blessed the sorrowing; they shall be consoled.” Sometimes this beatitude is translated: “Blessed those who mourn.” This is the beatitude that enters our conscientiousness whenever we are faced with the death of a friend or loved one. The human heart cannot avoid the sorrow it feels at the prospect of losing someone held dear. And the Lord is confirming our natural reaction: “You will be consoled.” Our sorrow will be turned to joy.

However, unless one is in the midst of a sorrowful time, this beatitude isn’t too consoling. No one looks forward to sorrow or to mourning. We also mourn for other kinds of loss. Sorrow in the sense of regret or penance is not a negative, but a cause of great consolation (all around). The great announcement of Jesus was this: “Reform your lives, the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent!” This is a command that each of us should take seriously. By complying with it we will please Jesus and be worthy of entering his kingdom. Our sorrowing should also extend to all sin, to every sinner, to all social and institutional evil, to all malice, ill-will, scandal, and to every evil, all of which require repentance along with mercy. Those embroiled in any of these things will not necessarily recognize their state or what is happening to others because of their choices. If we do see the error, the sin, we are called to sorrow for it, to mourn it. Allow yourself to be grieved by offense to God, to be moved by the modern Ninevites who don’t know their moral right hand from their left. Take them to heart, suffer for them and with them. In this way you will console the heart of God and be consoled in turn. This is to possess the heart of God.

Among a set of sentences found around the tabernacle in each chapel of the Pauline Family, is one that speaks to this beatitude. It says: “Live with a penitent heart.” In other words, be constantly attentive to the sufferings around you be they an offense of God or simply a breach of good sense. Do not think of this as a morbid sentiment. This kind of sensitivity is beautiful and helps one develop a closeness to the heart of the Lord of Life who went so far as to die for the sins of humanity. In his human nature, Jesus was the great consolation of God.

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