a New Christianity

Life Gets in the Way

The is the next article in a series of articles on the Beatitudes.

*** Spoiler warning – this article reveals the end of the movie “City of Angels”, with Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan.

We were driving back from lunch when she said “I watched that movie last night, ‘City of Angels’. Have you seen it?”

              “Yes,” I replied, “it’s a good movie.”

             “Sad,” she said, “Don’t you think it’s sad.”

             “No. I didn’t think it was sad at all,” I replied.

It has been a little while since I saw the movie myself, but I remember understanding perfectly the emotion Maggie felt (Meg Ryan’s character), as she rode her bicycle back to the cabin at the end of the film. Seth (Nicholas Cage’s character) felt the same joy. As she rides along with her arms outstretched, she feels like she could fly. She has a real sense of having found true joy in her life. And then, life gets in the way, as she loses an encounter with a logging truck.

After Maggie’s death, Seth’s angelic acquaintance Cassiel, asks him “If you had known this was going to happen, would you have done it?” He was referring to the fact that Seth had given up being an angel to become human, to be with Maggie. Seth answers him, “I would rather have had one breath of her hair, one kiss of her mouth, one touch of her hand than an eternity without it… one!” With this statement, Seth reminds us that true happiness is really only found in the context of life, and love, and that while the actual moments may be fleeting, the joy can last a lifetime.

Yeshua, too, sought to share with us this knowledge of happiness, and it is with this understanding that Yeshua gives us the second of the Beatitudes: “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” But how can this statement lead us to the “basillia ton ouranos” (or the knowledge of happiness)? Indeed, if one is in mourning, it is because of the loss of a loved one, as in Seth’s case. How can the loss of a loved one be a good thing? How can it be a source of happiness?

The loss of a mother, father, spouse or other beloved person is never easy, and the difficulty and weariness of dealing with the circumstances can be overwhelming. But as we move beyond the point of loss, and we begin to gain the perspective of time, we realize the truth of Seth’s statement from the movie: “I would rather have had one…” conversation, opportunity, moment to share with them, “than an eternity without it …one!”

This of course brings to mind that familiar saying from Tennyson, (who may have been quoting St.  Augustine) when he wrote “Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” As we consider this, and reflect upon it in the context of the movie, or even in the context of similar situations which have occurred in our own lives, the truth of Yeshua’s 2nd Beatitude becomes even more clear.

Think for a moment about all the people who have died in natural disasters in recent times. Tsunamis, earth quakes, and storms that have leveled whole villages and cities. These catastrophes have taken hundreds of thousands of lives. And while we may feel bad for those who’ve lost their lives or their loved ones, we don’t really mourn them. (This doesn’t make us callous - the sheer number of lives lost in these global disasters makes them seem surreal, and hard to comprehend in our limited perspective of reality.)

But if we are in mourning for the loss of someone, that is a good indicator that we were “close” to them, that we knew them well, and that they had a significant impact on our lives. If this was indeed the case, we will begin to make a transition from mourning and grief to thankfulness and joy, that they were a part of our lives. While getting back to “normal” may take some time, the blessings of having had them in our life will soon lead us to good memories of happy times…and by that we are comforted and blessed, indeed!

Grace and peace to you all,

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