Today’s Second Reading speaks to us about grieving. Grieving is a part of life. The early Christians believed that Jesus would return soon and take them to heaven. This made it difficult for them to accept the death of some of their members before Jesus returned in glory. St. Paul wants to assure them that, as surely as God raised Jesus from the dead, Jesus will raise those who have died.
In the meantime they were grieving. What should be their attitude towards grief? Paul didn’t tell them not to grieve, rather, he said, “Do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope.”
It is natural for grief to follow the death of a loved one. It is one of the strongest emotions we experience. Unfortunately many people have difficulty expressing it, and may try to suppress it. To suppress grief is dangerous, and can result in serious emotional problems.
To continue on living after the death of a loved one, people need to go through a period of mourning. The way to deal with grief is to work through it with as much honesty and courage as one can.
Those who do so will emerge enriched as individuals. Grief has a great purgative value. God cannot fill the soul until it is emptied of trivial concerns.
Faith should not be used as a crutch against grief. Sometimes people will comment about a person who does not grieve, “What great faith he/she has!” But even Jesus grieved. The death of his friend Lazarus is a good example of this. To grieve over the death of a loved one is a good and necessary thing.
While faith does not do away with the necessity of grieving, it is a wonderful comfort and support at the time of death. Paul says, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” Faith does not dispense us from grieving. What is does do is enable us to grieve with hope. We must not be afraid to shed tears, it is part of the healing process. We have tears in our eye but hope in our hearts.
When we grieve with hope, the wedding feast Jesus invites us to in today’s Gospel will be all the more joyful. We will have walked through the dark valley of grief, and emerge with the lamp of love still burning brightly!
- Father Dennis