“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15
Last week I went to the funeral of a young man. His mother is a friend of mine, and even though I have not seen her for some months, I felt strongly that I wanted to be at her son’s funeral. I was very sad for the family, and was moved to tears several different times throughout the funeral liturgy, especially at the end as the family processed out of the church with the casket, weeping. All I could think about is how fragile life is and how, in an instant, a person’s life can change forever: an accident, a fatal diagnosis, the revelation of a devastating piece of information. This family will travel a difficult road in the days and months to come, and I praise God that they have a strong faith and a wonderful community to carry them on this journey.
As I pray for this family, I am reminded of the importance of the above verse from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” We must truly rejoice with those who are rejoicing, not begrudging their good fortune in times of prosperity, and truly mourn with those who mourn, standing with them through all of the stages of their grief. Both rejoicing and mourning are a part of every human being’s life, and neither can be fully experienced without meaningful interpersonal interaction. We need others to help us celebrate when we are happy, or else our happiness is short-lived. Have you ever received a piece of exciting news and gotten a less-than enthusiastic response from your family or friends? When you needed someone to celebrate with you, instead you encountered jealousy, apathy, or skepticism. In the same way, we need others to walk with us as we mourn, uncomfortable as it may be for them and for us, otherwise we feel confused, lonely, and isolated from the rest of the world. We cannot grieve as we ought, and the consequences can be devastating.
I want to focus for a moment on rejoicing. As mothers, we constantly face the temptation to compare ourselves to other women, especially in an age when social media makes it possible for us to peer into each others’ lives in a way that was not possible even 10 short years ago. We see the minutiae of other families’ lives, and we wonder whether we measure up. We see all of the things that we could be doing and forget what we are already doing, or what is actually best for our individual families. The example that I think of is couponing – I’m hopeless at using coupons to grocery shop, and feel guilty when I hear others talk of their great couponing success stories! Whatever the triggers may be for each of us, when we compare ourselves to each other we zap the joy right out of our personal relationships.
My friends, life is too short for all of this craziness! Let us encourage one another and be grateful for each of our unique gifts and blessings. As St. Paul writes earlier in chapter 12 of Romans, “For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them…” (Romans 12: 4-6). Let us also recognize that we must not take our blessings for granted, for in the blink of an eye, any of our lives could be turned upside-down. When things are going well, let us rejoice and be glad with one another, and when hard times come, which they inevitably will, let us mourn and walk with one another.
May God bless you all on this Monday afternoon. Mary, Mother of divine grace, pray for us.