Shakespeare’s Juliet says to Romeo: “Parting is such sweet sorrow.”
English teachers might call that an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. But life is full of seeming contradictions which are not so contradictory.
We talk about “bitter sweet moments,” or a “deafening silence,” or “an open secret,” or a “tragic comedy.”
What kind of sorrow can be sweet? What sort of sadness brings gladness? What brand of grief leads to relief? Is such a thing possible?
Jesus told His disciples: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” If Christ’s own congratulations rests on the heads of believers whose mourning paves the path to their comfort, then it must be so.
Have you taken the time to listen to some white-haired veteran of the cross? Does it surprise you how she talks about a nearly unbearable burden she endured, some dark valley through which God led her years ago? Do you sense in the way she tells it a joyful peace that runs deep like a river in its well-worn channel?
Can you think of some past pain or problem in your life that became a path to blessings you could not have predicted? Is there some unspeakable sorrow that became strangely sweet because it made you run into the arms of God in a way that otherwise might never have happened?
Some disaster looms. Some soul is in danger. Some dreaded thing hangs over us each day. We are downhearted, downcast, spiritually depressed. Just then, God causes the sun to shine again.
Perhaps it’s some visitor at the door, some phone call out of the blue, some letter that everything is going to be alright. The storm has passed. The sorrow becomes sweet. The close call which brought us to our knees has brought us closer to Christ.
We bow our heads and pray that we never forget this rendezvous with mercy.
The women on along the Via Dolorosa – “the way of sorrows” – in our Lenten text from Luke – are weeping with what St. Paul once called “a worldly sorrow,” instead of the “godly sorrow which works repentance.”
Jesus summons us to a “sweet sorrow” which sees our sin for what it is so that we might see Jesus Christ for the great Savior that He is.