There’s a segment in Les Misérables, where Marius, after his close friends die in the revolution, sings:
There’s a grief that can’t be spoken,
There’s a pain goes on an on,
Empty chairs at empty tables,
Now my friends, are dead, and gone…
How well does this song capture the emotion that most of us feel. More sadly, is how frequently these events seem to be occurring now. It seems like just yesterday that we were comforting one another in whatever way we could, when we lost Kareem. As the picture shows, Maryann herself joined in that consolation. Today, as we buried Maryann, or Maro, that same brokenness was observed.
There are no words one can give to console a mother or father who lost a child, or a sibling who lost a sister. There are not words that can mend a broken heart or soul. No, there is no comfort in something that is wrong.
I didn’t know Maro. I stood and watched and observed today at the funeral service, and saw the grief in everyone’s faces. I’m not a stranger to grief and sorrow or loss. The loss of Maro wasn’t my loss specifically, but her death belongs to all of us. We all belong to one another. She was everyone’s who was there today. It was wrong that she left so early. I can say this boldly.
I can say it boldly because her death was a tragedy. It was. She didn’t leave us, as some others do, after a good long life. She didn’t leave us in a state of, “I have fought the good fight” and I’m ready to lay my life down. She was taken unexpectedly, instantly, and without warning. Because of this, one cannot find comfort in random words or hugs, because nothing can be said when something that occurred is wrong.
In the Old Testament, when someone committed a wrong, the person brought an animal in for sacrifice. He would put his hand on the animal and say aloud his sin, and the animal would die. There was a compelling reason for this: we were being shown that my doing something wrong causes pain, injury and death. I was being forced to see and face up to the reality that my doing wrong causes harm to more than myself and also to myself. I was being taught that I can’t sing myself to sleep when I do wrong and act like nothing has happened. In the early church, people used to have to confess their sins aloud and publicly. This was not for public shaming purposes. It was done to continue to instill that we do not live in a vacuum or on personal islands: we live in community. When I do wrong, what I do affects the whole community. My wrongs are not personal because I do not live in a personal world; my wrongs are communal wrongs. If I am selfish, someone else is poorer than me in something. If I am angry, someone is wounded. If I steal someone was robbed. If I am violent, someone is wounded. If I curse, someone is cursed. I do not live alone.
Maro was wronged.
So this might sound very gloomy indeed. It should be gloomy, because there is nothing comforting in wrong. That was the main point. There is no solace in things that are wrong. There is solace only in right.
What are you doing with your life? Father Andrew told us today that Maro had started working on right. That’s the thing that brought me the most comfort today. What about the rest of us – what are we doing? Are we working on right? Or are we living in wrong?
God made man and gave him the gift of immortality. The right was supposed to be immortality, but we chose the wrong. It’s because of wrong that there is death and corruption today. It’s just like health. You’re given good health, and it’s up to you to decide whether to do wrongs that take away your health, or rights that keep your health. The rights keep you healthy and happy, even if they require work; while the wrongs may bring you temporary thrills, but injury, disease and death in the long haul.
So, reflect: what do you do in response to a huge wrong like this? Do you walk away and say, I will live in wrongs! Or do you instead stop and reflect and ask, What have I felt from this wrong? Does the wrong bring me joy? Or does the wrong hurt? You have a choice: to do wrongs or to do rights. When our Lord came to earth, which is what we are celebrating tomorrow, He came to renew it. He came to fix up the messed up version of man that we had become. He came to reverse and fix all the things that happened through our mistakes: the disfigurings, the diseases, the illnesses, and He said that He came that we could have life and have it more abundantly. He came to restore and renew us, and to allow us to reclaim our immortality that He first gave us. He told us that to participate in it, that we have to change. He said that if we want to have this life, then we have to choose the rights, because the wrongs end up in pain and suffering. He taught us how to live those rights, and He showed us how humans could have access to this life again. He took the ultimate consequence of our wrongs – which was death – and killed it. Literally. He killed death, rose again and showed us proofs of that resurrection, promising us that same glory. He told us that choosing the rights might be expensive socially, but that it would work out in the end.
Maro went somewhere today where there are no wrongs. Maro doesn’t need consolation because she’s already now in a place where everything is already righted. There are no wrongs where she is – that is why there is no grief, sorrow or groaning. Maro is now Maro as Maro should have been on earth. She has no need for comforting. It is us that need comforting because it is us that have felt the sting of wrong. It is us that are feeling the pain of death. It is us that are feeling wounded. The only way to get comfort in this, is for us to pursue the rights, and the pursuit of rights, my friends, is the gospel: it is Love. Love is to deny myself and to live for others, not for myself. It’s do the right thing, in spite of how I feel, in spite of what I want, in spite of how I look, because it is the Truth. It is to be like God, Who Himself doesn’t exist even for Himself, but for us and for others. It is to turn the other cheek, to feed the poor, to bear insults. It is to put up with our brokenness and the brokenness of others by trying to live for others and give to others and mend others. It is to be a comfort to those mourning, it is to visit those that are in prison, it is to avoid judging or wrath or violence. It is to look for what brings my friend joy and happiness instead of what simply serves me. It is to avoid wrongs and things that kill the body or the spirit – because wrongs are acts of violence against our very humanity. Bear the gospel so that we all live in the right, that we all have peace, that we all find comfort. There is comfort and joy when things are righted. There is no comfort in wrong.
To Maro’s family – my condolences from the heart, though they offer little in terms of comfort. To the community: love the family and bend yourself to their will. If they want visitors, visit. If they do not want visitors, don’t visit. Offer them what they want, in their way, not yours. Do not comfort them for a week or two and move on, but become sons, daughters, and siblings to the family. Live for them to right the wrong, until everything is righted in the Resurrection.
Tomorrow is the feast of the Lord’s accepting to become human – our Lord’s outreach to humanity by becoming what we were meant to be. He came from on high like dew on fleece and surprised humanity with His visit, with His putting all our weakness on Himself. Now, take that gift and put on Christ, and become healers in your community. We were reborn in Christ, we died in Him, and we, like Maro, will one day rise in Him:
But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep…
1 Th 4:13–14