Mourning Our Losses

OK, Holy Week means extra posts are allowed! This is to begin notes on a short book study: “With Burning Hearts” by Henri Nouwen. It’s about applying the Eucharist (Communion) to everyday life, and Nouwen uses “The Road to Emmaus” Bible story. That’s the one where the two disciples are walking along after Easter, all sad about Jesus’ death, when He appears and begins explaining the scriptures to them–about how it had to be (the Messiah was meant to suffer & die); and they don’t recognize Him until they sit down together and Jesus breaks the bread.

The Eucharist usually begins with “Lord have mercy”. The two disciples were mourning as they walked along, and everyone needs to mourn their losses. “…nobody can escape the agonizing losses that are part of our everyday existence–the loss of our dreams. We had thought so long of ourselves as successful, liked, and deeply loved…” So there is the loss of what you might have hoped you’d be, the loss of self-worth, or the loss of your “first love” (the feelings & excitement of your relationship with Christ are not the same as they first were). We all have that loss of our dreams, if we admit it, but the question is whether it leads to resentment or gratitude. “Resentment can become a way of life that so pervades our words and actions that we no longer recognize it as such… I am so used to talking about people I do not like, to harboring memories about events that gave me much pain, or to acting with suspicion and fear…”

“Eucharist” actually means “act of thanksgiving”. “Living Eucharistically is living life as a gift, a gift for which one is grateful… through mourning our losses we come to know life as a gift. The beauty and preciousness of life is intimately linked with its fragility and mortality.”

Nouwen also says that when we say “Lord have mercy”, we need to claim responsibility not only for the conflicts in our own lives–but for those on the “regional, national, or world scales”. Interestingly, that’s what Sister Prejean was trying to get the convicted murderer to do, to “claim responsibility” for what he had done. Because only by claiming responsibility for our sins “can we move beyond them–choosing a life of forgiveness, peace, and love.” And I need to realize that it could have been me. As ugly as that murderer was–if I’d been raised in his situation, his circumstances, I might have done the same.

The chapter ends with a glimmer of hope. Though the two disciples were mourning, they did mention the fact that women had been to the tomb and He wasn’t there. And as long as we cry out “Lord have mercy!” we are expressing that glimmer of hope within ourselves–that He will hear.

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