"And Jesus wept"- The power of tears

This Sunday's Gospel has the shortest sentence in the Bible: "And Jesus wept." For some reason, in spite it being a longer Gospel this week, these three words stuck in my heart and head.

"And Jesus wept." Why did Jesus cry? Because there is power in tears. There is solidarity in tears. When Jesus saw his friends Martha and Mary, he was overcome with compassion for them as they suffered the loss of their brother Lazarus. Yet, the tears that flowed may have been also a response to the deep wound of sin which caused death. Death consumed the creation God has created since the time of Adam and Eve. The wages of sin are death and Jesus was getting ready to pay the price. Death had taken Lazarus once and it would take him again. This step of raising Lazarus from the death would stir the hornet's nest of the religious leaders to take action to seek out Jesus and put him to death. Yes, Jesus wept. Yet in this rollercoaster of emotions, Jesus carries out one of his greatest miracles in raising his good friend Lazarus from the dead. Love always has the final word.

Elsewhere in the Scriptures, as Jesus comes in sight of the city of Jerusalem, he sheds tears over it because of the inability of its inhabitants to welcome the message of peace.  Revelation 21: 4 reminds us that ‘God will wipe away every tear’ yet Psalm 80:5 says that the Lord ‘has fed them with the bread of tears and made them to drink tears in large measure.” So which is it? Does God want to console us when we are hurting or does he want to make us cry?  

Apparently it is healthy for us to cry. They say that there are three distinctive type of tears, each with a different chemical make-up.
1. Basal tears are the type that are constantly lubricating the eye. 
2. Reflex tears happen when something irritates the eye. 
3. The type that occurs when we cry for sadness or happiness are emotional tears.

There is another beautiful Scripture verse which speaks of tears and it is an image which I reflect upon often: “You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle.” The Lord collects my tears, even tears are precious to the Father.

The tears of Jesus are a life-balm for us. These tears heal the heart and cleanse the soul and bring us closer to God if we allow it. It is interesting that St. Catherine of Siena devoted an entire chapter to the spiritual significance of tears in her great masterpiece, The Dialogue. For her, they express an exquisite, profound sensitivity, a capacity for being moved and for tenderness.  She presents those holy affections as the only proper response to the great love revealed in Christ crucified. These tears move us away from sin and into the very heart of God. She describes this as a journey that begins with kissing the feet of Jesus and entering into his wounded side. For her, intimacy with the Lord is always through the Cross and informed by a profound gratitude and humility. Here I am mindful of the woman who anointed Jesus's feet with the precious nard, washed with her tears and dried them with her hair. Her pain is real but so is her experience of feeling infinitely loved.

The vulnerability of tears remind us of the need for God and for others to walk with us along the pilgrim way. Life situations may cause us to cry but sometimes we have to let those tears water the seeds of our future happiness. If we come to God with a broken heart, He is the doctor who heals it but also wipes away the tears. Even Charles Dickens reminded us that 'we should never be ashamed of our tears for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.'  At times, tears are the only bridge for us to reach God. To pass from death to life, from crucifixion to Resurrection.

As we move on our Lenten journey, struggling to understand the folly of the Cross, may we weep for those things which make Jesus weep. Poverty, injustice, terrorism, violence, hatred, evil, anything which makes little of our fellow brothers and sisters. We weep with them, we weep for them. And when tears rush over us, at the most unexpected moments, may we rest in the peace of knowing that our God catches each one, with gentleness and care, as only He can. He knows every tear and He knows what caused it. He collects it and mixes it with the divine tears of his Son. Just as the wine and water are mingled during the Eucharist, so too, our tears, our offering,  are mingled and become one with Jesus.

It might be fitting to conclude with the old country song which goes:

Tears Are a Language God Understands
So often you've wondered why
Tears come into your eyes
And burdens seem to be
Much more than you can stand
But God is standing near
He sees each falling tear
Tears are a language God understands
 God sees the tears
Of your broken-hearted soul
I know He sees those tears
And hears them every time they fall
God weeps along with man
And then He takes him by the hand
For they are a language that God understands.

"Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh" (Luke 6: 20-21).