9-11: Blessed are those who mournBy Robert Martin
In contemporary American history, this date, Sept. 11, ranks up there with Dec. 7, Nov. 22, and April 4. It is a day when, as a nation, the U.S. felt their security and comfort shattered and people had to face the very real grief that comes from sudden violence. My wife has essentially turned off all media on this day, the images too vivid, still too real for her.
Many of us are asking each other the question, “Where were you when… ?” We share in our memories because we were all, to some extent, impacted. For me, I was away from home, overseas, on a business trip. When I found out what had happened, I realized that I was an alien, a stranger in a strange land, and my trip home was not a foregone conclusion. But I wasn’t entirely lost. More on that in a moment.
I’ve seen a number of articles posted around in a variety of publications questioning the “rightness” of mourning on this day when the rest of the world experienced hunger and insecurity all the time, not just on one day. And to some extent, I can understand that. We cannot forget that there is more to this world than our country and our grief. Other articles criticize the rampant nationalism that the event itself spawned and the nationalistic fervor that continues in many of the memorials to this day. And, again, I can understand that criticism as such nationalism has been at fault in many tragedies in world history and creates the “us vs. them” atmosphere that has been the cause of many of those tragedies…even our own.
But to say “don’t remember” and “don’t memorialize” and “don’t grieve” I believe is unfair to those people who have suffered very real loss on this date. Whether the loss is of that sense of security and peace or the loss is more personal such as having both parents killed in the towers, it is still a real loss and people will grieve such loss. To trivialize it and say, “it’s not a big deal” or “it’s not as bad as what happened in [fill in the blank]” or even “we don’t have any right to grieve, we brought it on ourselves” is far from the compassionate, gracious comfort that we are called to give as the people of God.
Jesus himself in the Beatitudes called those who mourn “blessed.” There is something sacred about a person who mourns. There is a vulnerability there that takes the person out of themselves and brings them into a full realization of their humanity and limited power. It can be a very lonely place, that place of mourning and grief. But the beatitude says that those who mourn will be comforted. I like the way the Message puts it.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.” Matt. 5:4, The Message
Into that brokenness of mourning, there is comfort to be had. This is that place that opens up people to be able to listen and accept gentle words of comfort and peace. “You are not alone.” “You are loved.” “You are precious.” Sometimes, that’s all that is required. I like the idea of being embraced. When I grieved for my mother’s passing, what I desired most from my wife, more than anything else, was her embrace. I wanted to feel that I was in that safe place again.
As we encounter mourning in our nation on this date, perhaps we as believers can take as an example what a family in France did for me on that date, eleven years ago today. Lost, alone, unsure of when I would get home, one of the men that I was working with in my business invited me over to his house for dinner. He and his wife and his two little girls opened up their home to me, a stranger, an alien, a person in mourning, and fed me. It was a wonderful evening of time around the table, a simple French country fare of fruit and salad, bread and meat, and wine. Nothing fancy. I was family. I was embraced. I even got good-night kisses from two little French girls with “Bonsoir, monsieur, bonsoir.” It wasn’t much, but as I was mourning, I felt the comfort of the embrace of love.
As we go through our day today, some of us still in mourning, perhaps this is what we need to do. Instead of recriminations or criticisms of national policy, instead of arguments over foreign policy and other items of a nationalistic nature, maybe what we need to do is practice what our Lord, Jesus, taught us and give comfort to those who mourn. Look around. Who needs an embrace today? “What you do to the least of these. . .”
Robert Martin blogs thoughts, reflections and stories regarding theology and the Christian walk at The Abnormal Anabaptist, where this post originally appeared.
For more from the World Together on Sept. 11, see “Remembering 9-11”.
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