Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Joy of Sorrow

It may sound like a contradiction, but I was reflecting today on what is behind sorrow and mourning. Today is the feast of "Our Lady of Sorrows", which remembers various times during the life of Jesus' mother Mary when she was filled with sorrow. From the time she was warned by Simeon when she presented Him in the Temple to having to witness His death and burial, like all of us Mary had moments where she must have felt a little overwhelmed with sadness. Why, then, would our Church call upon us to celebrate these moments?
I believe that they are a reflection of the depth of love that was present. You cannot mourn someone you did not love. You cannot be filled with sorrow over someone who does not hold a place in your heart. Grief is not only a natural and healthy human reaction to loss, but also an indication of the importance of a relationship. I simply do not agree with those who try to tell you that, if you have faith in heaven, eternal life, the resurrection, etc. you should not be sad when someone dies. But that is a misunderstanding of why we mourn and the reason for our sorrow. We are sad not because of what happens to the other person, but because of what has happened to us. And this is not in a selfish way, but in a truly connected way. We feel the loss, we experience the pain of separation, we are filled with fear even at the thought of losing someone we love. And that is the key phrase - "someone we love".
The pain that comes from sorrow is a reminder that we have loved. Grief counselors tell us that it is good and healthy to grieve, and that people grieve in many different ways. One thing all grief has in common is that it indicates an important loss. And when we identify with others who grieve, we show that they are important to us, that they matter and make a difference.
So it is OK to celebrate today the "sorrows" of Mary, and indeed our own sorrows. In fact, there is a kind of joy in that sorrow, because it assures us that we have loved. And when it is our turn to depart from this life, there will not only be joy that we are returning to the Lord, but joy that those we leave behind mourn and grieve, because we have been loved.

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