A person who lives responsibly gradually realizes that mourning is part and parcel of human existence and that to have a positive and creative response to it is not only important but also necessary for healthy living. On the other hand, a person who lives in a superficial and irresponsible manner avoids facing painful situations, thinking that he/she can conceal them, and seeks diversion, pleasure and escape. Such a person does not consider pleasure and pain as inseparable in this life. As a matter of fact, disordered pleasure transforms itself into suffering as it cannot give what it promises: lasting joy.
In number 75 of the Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete and Exsultate, Pope Francis says: “The worldly person ignores problems of sickness or sorrow in the family and all around him; he averts his gaze. The world has no desire to mourn; it would rather disregard painful situations, cover them up or hide them. Much energy is expended on fleeing from situations of suffering in the belief that reality can be concealed. But the cross can never be absent.”
Understanding Painful Situations
Holy Scripture tells us that painful situations have been there since the beginning because the first humans turned their backs on God by desiring the impossible: lasting joy without and against God. Holy Scripture makes us understand that painful situations must have the interior response of mourning that can be found in Christ and though Christ. Such a response has different layers of meaning:
• Mourning for our personal sins and mourning of repentance like that of Peter after the betrayal;
• Mourning for the many sins committed by people in the world, especially those who have adopted an arrogant rejection of God through militant and aggressive atheism;
• Mourning for the helplessness felt when a believer is aggressively and stubbornly presented with the challenge, “Where is your God?” and mourning for those who pose the challenge through sincere compassion towards them;
• Mourning for the many crimes against humanity and life in general committed: by those living in selfishness and isolation, refusing to share their wealth with the poor and abandoned, having no room for God and for others in their hearts; by those who rob people of their dignity, their freedom, their peace and their happiness, and have made this behavior a way of life; by those who hurt people in the name of God, thinking that what they do pleases Him;
• Mourning with the whole Church who has suffered much from the abominations committed by some of her own ministers and priests, and who is struggling to take measures to prevent the repetition of abuses, rebuilding confidence and trust where these may have been damaged.
These are some of the significant responses given to painful situations by people who live their human and Christian vocation responsibly. In responding positively to painful situations they are comforted by Jesus, and the lasting joy which is a fruit of the Spirit becomes theirs.
Again, in his Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, n. 76, Pope Francis says: “A person who sees things as they truly are and sympathizes with pain and sorrow is capable of touching life’s depth and finding authentic happiness. He/she is consoled, not by the word but by Jesus. Such persons are unafraid to share in the suffering of others; they do not flee from painful situations. They discover the meaning of life by coming to the aid of those who suffer, understanding their anguish and bringing relief. They sense that the other is flesh of our flesh, and are not afraid to draw near, even to touch their wounds. They feel compassion for others in such a way that all distance vanishes. In this way they can embrace Saint Paul’s exhortation ‘Weep with those who weep’” (Romans 12:15)
When we mourn with others, God enables us to experience blessedness and joy the way Mary did, having allowed herself to be pierced by the sword of redemptive suffering. She intercedes for us that we too may live the Paschal Mystery, a mystery of suffering, death and resurrection.