The Eucharist: Comfort for Those Who Mourn

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” –Matthew 5:4

Early on a Thursday morning three months ago, I awoke to a phone call with the news that my beautiful mother had passed away. Seven hours later on the same day, I sat in a little room and listened to a doctor tell me that the baby I was carrying in my womb had no heartbeat. 

Days later, as I traveled to my mother’s funeral, I felt like a tomb. A physical tomb for the unborn child I hadn’t yet miscarried. An emotional tomb for all the memories I would never have the chance to make with my sweet mom and my precious little child. And a spiritual tomb in my faith, caught in the sorrow of Holy Saturday, hovering between the agony of death and the hope of resurrection. I reeled from the loss of life and waited for Jesus to rise again in my heart. 

Somehow, despite my strong faith, the words of hope people offered in those first days of loss felt empty. Expressions like, “She’s in a better place now,” felt like platitudes as I grappled with the reality of death. Why couldn’t I just imagine my loved ones in heaven and feel better? Where was my faith? 

My heart felt like a heavy stone, and I didn’t know how I would lift it.  

I arrived at my mom’s funeral Mass still a tomb, encompassed by death, trapped under the weight of that heavy stone. 

The Mystical Body of Christ

As the Mass began, though, something began to happen in my heart. Something started to change within me. As I listened to the readings and the homily, a ray of peace began to break through, like a shaft of sunlight streaming through the clouds after a storm. The prayers of the liturgy were a balm to my soul. And when at last I received the Eucharist, the clouds broke. The stone in my heart was rolled away, and a new light dawned. 

In that moment, everything changed. In the Eucharist, I was together again with my precious mom, whose coffin stood beside me but whose spirit lived in Jesus. My mom, who attended daily Mass in that same church for as long as she physically could, whose life was a living witness to the love of Christ, who received His Body and Blood countless times in that very spot, had been united with Jesus in the Eucharist since the day of her First Communion. “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him,” Jesus says in John 6:56. When I received Him, she was there, too. 

In the Eucharist, I was together again with the child who was at that moment buried in my womb. “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,” Jesus says in Matthew 18:5. He and the child are one. When I received Jesus in the Eucharist, I could be with the child who, as Mother Angelica writes in her Miscarriage Prayer, “was created and lived a short time so the image of his parents imprinted on his face may stand before [God] as their personal intercessor.”

In death, my beloved ones had gone to be with Jesus—and if they were in Jesus, they were in the Eucharist. When I received Him, I also could be with them. And through the grace of the sacrament, I could pray with confidence for the peaceful repose of their souls.

I don’t mean to say that everything was perfect after that moment. Many difficult days would still lie ahead for me as I grieved. But the difference was that, where before I could see only darkness, now I could also see light. 

I was wrapped, swaddled, enfolded in the Mystical Body of Christ. It wasn’t wishful thinking or pious sentimentality. It wasn’t a dream. It was reality, and I felt it deep in my soul. It was the reality that Jesus has conquered death forever, that He is eternal life. The reality that when we eat His Body we become one with Him. The reality that He gave us this gift so that we could be together for eternity.

The One Who Rolls Away the Stone

On the night Jesus first gave His friends the Eucharist, he prayed to the Father for those who believe in Him: “that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which though hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and has loved them even as thou hast loved me.” (John 17:21-23) 

This prayer echoed in my soul when I received the Eucharist. I in them and thou in me. Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:4 are fulfilled in the Blessed Sacrament: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” The Eucharist is the comfort of those who mourn. 

What I hadn’t been able see, in my grief throughout the days before, was that I didn’t have to be the one to lift the heavy stone that blocked my heart. 

In Mark 16, Mary Magdalene and two other women were going to the tomb on Easter morning to anoint Jesus’ Body with spices. As they went, they said to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the door of the tomb?” But they needn’t have worried. When they arrived there, at the site of the Resurrection, they found that “the stone was rolled back; for it was very large.” 

What the women hadn’t been able to see, as they made their way to the tomb, was that they wouldn’t have to be the ones to roll away the heavy stone in front of the tomb. They needed only to go to Him, and the stone would be rolled away.

The One who rolled away the stone in front of the tomb in Scripture was the same One who would remove the stone that blocked my heart. I didn’t need to lift it by myself; I only needed to go to Him in the Eucharist, and the stone would be rolled away. 

If you have suffered loss, you are not alone. Blessed are you, dear child of God, as you mourn. And for those who carry the extra cross of losing a loved one whose soul you fear wasn’t in a state of grace: Take comfort, pray, and do not lose hope that you can meet that person in the Eucharist. Padre Pio, who at times had the supernatural gift of seeing the eternal fate of certain souls, once said of a man who died of suicide: “He’s saved. Between the bridge and the river he repented.” Not only can we pray for the souls of our loved ones who have died, but since God is outside of time, we can also pray now for an outpouring of grace in their dying moments, even if they passed away years ago. As Padre Pio said,For the Lord, …everything is an eternal present. Those prayers had already been taken into account so that even now I can pray for the happy death of my great-grandfather!” These souls who suffered on earth are so precious to the Heart of Jesus, and we must entrust them to Divine Mercy, incapable as we are of comprehending what the “breadth and length and height and depth” (Eph 3:18-19) of the love of Christ will do to save their eternal souls. 

If your heart feels weighed down by a stone too heavy to lift, Jesus is waiting in the Eucharist to roll it away, to let the light of His Resurrection shine into every tomb, and to make us one in His love with everyone who is in Him. 

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Maura Roan McKeegan is the author of a number of Catholic children's books, including the award-winning Old and New series, which introduces children to biblical typology. Her latest books are Julia Greeley: Secret Angel to the Poor (Ignatius-Magnificat); Beloved Son: Joseph and Jesus (Emmaus Road); and The Poorest Shepherd (OSV). She is co-author, with Scott Hahn, of Seven Clues: A Catholic Treasure Hunt (Loyola Press). Her articles have appeared in various magazines. You can contact her at [email protected]

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